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  • Nina Irani Surya

Meeting Fatigue

Updated: 5 days ago

Every month there are up to 1 million Google searches for Zoom fatigue, burnout & anxiety. This number is increasing every single month. Yet Zoom/Teams/WebEX meetings aren’t going anywhere soon, even after the pandemic, so how do we overcome virtual meeting burnout and stay productive and sane? I now get this question from clients almost every day. Fortunately, I have some easy tips that can help. Here are the 4 main causes of burnout and how to soothe them.



1. Brain Drain


P r o b l e m

  • Your brain responds to people differently on Zoom. It takes a lot of energy for the brain to focus while staring at a screen, as opposed to in-person meetings where you can look around with a softer focus. In person, the subconscious takes in more body language, which the brain has to work much harder to decipher through a screen. This consumes a lot of energy, causing mental fatigue.

  • Additionally, the brain is not designed to stare at rows of faces for a prolonged period. This can register in the subconscious as a stress trigger. Being on-screen can also be a stress trigger. It often makes people distracted or self-conscious, feeling they have to perform.

S o l u t i o n s

  • Ask clarifying questions if you’re not sure about someone’s meaning, or how they feel about something. This cuts down on guesswork and shows them you’re interested in what they have to say.

  • Turn your camera off every now and then, if you can. Or at least hide self-view. This helps you relax so you don’t have to feel like you’re “on” for the whole meeting.

2. Physical Strain


P r o b l e m

  • Many people used to have back-to-back meetings in person, but at least you’d have to walk there. Virtual meetings cut down drastically on physical movement in a society that is already too sedentary.

  • In addition, video conference posture usually restricts the breath—not to mention strain on the eyes and the neck. The consequence? Fatigue, weight gain, stiffness and more.

S o l u t i o n s

  • Soften your gaze. Relax your eyes by closing them gently while you count to 3. If your camera is off, look around.

  • Try to avoid going straight from one meeting to another. Give yourself at least a few minutes to get up and walk around in between.

  • During meetings, be vigilant about breathing deep. Be ergonomically correct. Move your legs around and change your posture. If your camera is off, move your whole body around, relax your neck and try some shoulder rolls.

3. Hypnotic Effect


P r o b l e m

  • Video conferences get even more monotonous than in-person meetings. Watching talking heads and slides on a screen is hypnotic and often leads to that surreal glazed over feeling.

S o l u t i o n s

  • Try to shorten meetings. What can be done offline?

  • Mix it up! You can create variety in the following ways

  • take turns facilitating the meeting—different voices and styles create variety

  • add fun things to the agenda: things to celebrate, people to acknowledge, creative solutions to challenges working at home, pictures of new cooking ventures

  • have meeting themes with matching virtual backgrounds and give out prizes for the best one

  • change up the agenda. I helped a client last week with 3 alternate agenda formats. Not only were they more fun, but they actually saved time!


4. Human Connection


P r o b l e m

  • Having the camera off has many advantages, but disembodied voices can exacerbate the feeling of uncertainty and disconnect.

  • Where to look? People feel obliged to look into the webcam to give the appearance of eye contact, but need to look at their screen to see slides and other peoples’ reactions.

  • It’s easy to feel drained when you’re around people but don’t feel connected. This is universally true not only for extroverts, but even the most extreme introverts, and everyone in between.

S o l u t i o n s

  • If cameras are off, visualize the person you are hearing, and whom you are speaking to. This may help you feel more connected.

  • If your camera is on, look at the webcam for a few seconds when others are speaking, to establish the experience of eye contact. Then look at the screen to take in non-verbal cues. Go back and forth. This works when you are speaking as well. Alternate between making eye contact (i.e looking into the camera) and monitoring reactions on your screen.

  • Connect in whatever is meaningful for you and your team. This will vary according to your circumstances. I recently challenged a team of overwhelmed executives to play a game during their next 3 meetings and report the results: In every meeting accomplish one of two things:

  • Learn something new about a colleague

  • Surprise your colleagues (and maybe yourself) by exhibiting a (positive) trait you usually don’t. For ex: acknowledge someone you usually wouldn’t, keep an open mind to something you’d otherwise dismiss off-hand. Are you “the talkative one”? Try listening instead. Are you generally quiet? Try speaking up more. See where it leads.


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