Managing Video Meetings: How to Avoid Collaboration Fatigue

2020 was a year rife with changes and challenges.

I’ve always worked from home as long as I’ve been self-employed so that wasn’t very different for me but what was different was the ability/desire to connect more via Zoom since I could no longer regularly connect over a lunch or coffee in-person meeting. I’m very much an introvert but I still need human connection to avoid falling into the abyss.

Initially, I thought Zoom meetings were great (I still think they are for many reasons) but quickly I became fatigued and would find after a meeting or two in a day, I was wiped and felt like I needed a nap. I’m not a napper so instead I would just struggle the rest of the day to get anything accomplished.

I also found my eyes much more strained than normal.  The extra time in front of a screen without a break were too much for them and they would become very dry and sore, making it also difficult to work.

Working from home suddenly evolved from a futuristic concept for some into the standard strategy for most businesses. Our in-person meetings and daily chats became video calls and instant messaging.

Collaboration tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack took over the world in the age of the pandemic, promising a convenient way for teams to stay connected.

On the one hand, the tools meant that you could stay productive wherever you were – even outside of the office. Video meetings kept us interacting face-to-face, and cloud-based tools connected clients/customers.

On the other hand, the constant influx of never-ending meetings ignited a new challenge: collaboration fatigue.

38% of workers in a 2020 study said that they experienced video fatigue since the start of the pandemic. Another 24% confirmed that they find virtual meetings overwhelming, exhausting, and inefficient.

So, how do we combat this issue?

Managing the Collaboration Drain

Some parts of the virtual collaboration experience are more exhausting than others.

Video, for instance, requires us to give more attention to our screens and track a larger number of factors. Unlike in a standard meeting when you can make notes without worrying that everyone in the room is watching you, you’re constantly on high alert in a video call.

Simultaneously, you’re trying to keep track of everyone else’s video feeds, the presentation from the person hosting the meeting, and anything else that’s happening on your screen.

All that, and you’re constantly checking your own video stream to ensure you look okay. It’s a lot for anyone to handle!

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce fatigue. Try these techniques:

Avoid multitasking.

It’s tempting to try and respond to emails and deal with other work when you’re in the middle of a call, particularly if you know the focus isn’t directly on you. However, research shows that trying to do various things at once harms performance.

  • You need to access various parts of your brain for different types of work, making it much tougher to do anything at 100% capacity.
  • Stanford even finds that people who multitask tend to struggle with remembering important factors. That means that you forget what happened in one meeting and have to call another one just to iron things out.
  • What’s worse, multitasking makes it more likely that you’ll be called out by other members of the video conferencing crew for not paying attention.

Take breaks.

In the remote and hybrid working landscape, you might assume that you shouldn’t need to take breaks. After all, you’re working from your spare room or sofa – you should be comfortable enough already, right? However, you still need to give your brain time to refresh in this environment.

  • Setting some time aside in your calendar each day when you won’t be available for video calls or collaboration experiences will allow you to have some crucial moments of independent work and focus.
  • In between meetings, it’s also worth taking a moment to go for a walk around, take your eyes off the screen, and stretch your legs. Back-to-back calls will quickly wear you down if you don’t give yourself any breathing space between them.

Reduce excess stimuli.

This advice ties in with the tip to avoid multitasking. How many pieces of information are you trying to pay attention to at once during a collaboration session? Are you gazing at your own face and checking your emails while trying to pay attention to a presentation?

  • Shut the tab for your inbox and hide your camera feed from view.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the different video streams you need to keep track of in a grid, ask your employer to use a virtual environment for the meeting instead, like Together mode.
  • You can even tackle mental fatigue by considering your physical surroundings. Are you in a separate workspace that’s cut off from the rest of your family, the TV, and your dog? How much outside noise can you hear? Is it worth using a pair of noise-canceling headphones to get yourself in the zone?

Keep meetings short and sweet.

Video meetings might be the new normal for many workspaces, but they’re not necessary at all hours of the day. Most team members will work better with a handful of video meetings in their schedule, interspersed with regular team chat, emails, and calls.

  • According to productivity software, Desktime, the top 10% of productive people only focus on a work topic for a period of up to 52 minutes, before taking a 17-minute break.
  • Following that information, you may decide that you should never schedule a meeting that’s longer than an hour.

Remember, only use video when it’s necessary for:

  • Creating human connection through face-to-face interaction
  • Bringing visual context into a conversation

Virtual collaboration is a natural part of our modern work life, but it doesn’t have to be exhausting. Try these strategies to help reduce collaboration fatigue and get more out of your meetings.

If you’d like to read more articles like this, check out our Business Strategy category on the blog.