The era of virtual meetings brings with it a new type of meeting fatigue. While meetings are essential to fostering collaboration and building rapport in a digital work environment, too many can take a toll on team productivity and morale.
So, what do you do when blocked calendars and exhausted agendas impact culture? Here are some tips to avoid meeting overload and strike the right balance.
Although it may seem like a minor issue at surface level, meeting fatigue carries with it many pitfalls, including:
- Decreased productivity on an individual and team basis
- Loss of focus on critical functions and strategic priorities
- Less time for creative thinking and innovation
- General meeting fatigue, causing attendees to be less engaged during meetings
- Increased stress on the part of employees who may feel overwhelmed by their commitments and workload
- Potential for burnout as a result of lower productivity, impact on work-life balance and higher stress
- Less time for leaders and decision-makers to perform high-priority tasks, do strategic planning and support their team
The benefits of meetings
At the same time, meetings are an essential tool in a collaborative environment. Understanding the benefits of meetings can help leaders and managers use them to their advantage while still allowing their teams sufficient time to get their work done.
Here are some of the upsides of well-planned and well-executed meetings:
- Allow for collaboration, idea sharing and team building
- Enable real-time communication so teams can clarify information, offer feedback and make immediate decisions
- Help teams understand and align with organizational goals, strategies and priorities
- Provide a valuable opportunity for sharing important updates and project progress
- In times of crisis, meetings offer a swift and effective means of communication, ensuring that the team can respond promptly and cohesively
- Provide an opportunity to recognize the achievements of key contributing team members
- Offer a platform for open discussion and transparent communication, reducing the chances of misunderstanding within the team
- Vital for relationship-building with not just fellow team members but also clients, partners, and vendors
Clearly, meetings have their place in a positive, collaborative team environment. Here’s how to get the most out of them while avoiding meeting fatigue and overwhelm:
1. Ensure a meeting is warranted in the first place
Before scheduling a meeting, take a moment to ask yourself whether the purpose could be effectively achieved through an alternative means such as email, project management tools, or a team messaging platform like Slack. If there’s no need to have an interactive dialogue or to resolve an issue that requires input and feedback, skip the meeting and opt for the more time-efficient option.
2. Allocate less time for meetings
Block off shorter time slots for meetings, such as forty-five minutes instead of an hour, to keep attendees focused and minimize unnecessary tangents from the main discussion. This promotes efficiency while also allowing participants to have more time in their day.
3. Clarify the purposes of meetings
Create a more intentional meeting by articulating the objective in advance and if possible outline an agenda. This helps attendees prepare and also ensures the discussion stays on track, resulting in a more purposeful, efficient meeting.
4. Whittle down the attendee list
Include only the people who truly need to attend the meeting according to the agenda. Not only does this respect the time of participants, but it also keeps the meeting focused and streamlined.
5. Consider no meeting days
Some teams find that designating specific days where meetings are minimized or prohibited (for example, “No Meeting Wednesdays”) can help give the individuals valuable, uninterrupted time for focused work. While this strategy isn’t very workable for businesses or departments that work directly with clients, for internal teams it can help reduce the overall impact of meeting fatigue on productivity.
Another alternative is to simply set one team meeting every morning or on a weekly basis with a set agenda to discuss all the major points that would otherwise necessitate separate meetings throughout the day or week.
6. Create rules for big meetings.
In large meetings, establishing clear guidelines is paramount for staying focused and keeping attendees engaged. Such rules should cover when to ask questions, when to take discussions offline, whether or not to have cameras on, and whether to keep oneself muted. Not only will these rules make meetings more productive, but they’ll also strengthen team relationships.
Keep your calendar up to date and block off times for focusing on project deliverables and tasks that are essential for daily operations. This approach helps individuals ensure they’re maintaining a proper balance between dedicated work time and collaborative sessions.
Pro tip: Align your calendar scheduling with your body’s natural biorhythms for optimal productivity. For example, if you do your best work in the mornings, block off your calendar until noon so you can participate in meetings after you’ve made a satisfying dent in your workload. Alternatively, if you’re an afternoon warrior, block off your calendar for some post-lunch-focused work.
Don’t forget to give yourself some time for some well-deserved and much-needed breaks during the day, which can help reduce burnout and increase productivity. This is best accomplished by blocking off your calendar for these as well. If you notice a particular day or week is filling up with meetings, schedule a fifteen-minute or half-hour slot to avoid dreaded back-to-back meeting days.
As we navigate the new world of digital work, virtual meetings have become integral to collaboration and human connection, but the rise of meeting fatigue requires an intentional approach. Incorporate the tips above to ensure that meetings contribute in a positive way without hindering productivity.
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