Each time I see an article implying that “Zoom fatigue” is a reason why meetings are draining our last drop of energy, I trap another repressed sigh inside my head. Yes, I get it; meeting on Zoom all day probably isn’t making it to the top of anyone’s bucket list. But let’s not blame our tools, friends. Zoom is a powerful means to connect us, and I think our meeting fatigue may be driven in part by simply over-indexing on a single default method of communication.
Rather than shift responsibility for all our meeting troubles onto a single platform, let’s chat about some of the options we can take to alleviate so many of us feel the meeting madness.
Normalize optional attendance
People have varying levels of interest in attending specific meetings. When teams explicitly decide that optional really does mean optional, we’re freed from the idea that we’ll be judged for prioritizing other efforts. While adding all team members to an invite is great for transparency, it isn’t supposed to be a referendum on how individuals are required to spend their time.
If you’re interested in boosting your success rate with this approach, commit to including a detailed agenda on all meeting invites. This is another way to avoid zoom fatigue, so people can determine whether a meeting warrants their attention.
Be prepared – and then prepare some more
A colleague once shared that prep should take the same amount of time as the meeting itself. I was skeptical at first but being part of a distributed and integrated team over the past year highlighted the incredible efficiency of a well-prepared group. It’s the difference between laying out your gear before you go camping and stuffing your things in a duffle five minutes before heading out for your adventure.
Next time you schedule a meeting, try experimenting with your version of a meeting checklist manifesto.
My current version includes:
- key meeting goals
- an itemized list of decisions to be made
- any pre-meeting background materials
- roles and responsibilities of attendees
Reframe what attendance looks like
Sometimes our partners want to clear an hour in their day and power through multiple topics. While 90 straight minutes of decision-making is the right fit for a critical stakeholder, team members might only be invested in one or two subjects. Why not redefine attendance as being present for a conversational thread rather than an entire block of time when this happens? Try expanding participating to include people being “on-call” in Slack, chat, or text. When a particular topic is raised, send a quick message to any interested parties so they can jump into the exchange when it is most impactful for them.
Plan for async information consumption
At TXI, most of our meetings are recorded with an automated transcript. By creating an avenue for people to catch up in the moment that serves them best, we clear a path that helps to balance personal and team productivity. Informational meetings that used to interrupt lunches and school drop-offs now become easily accessible at the “right” time for everyone involved.
Other alternatives might be in the form of a shared document containing meeting minutes for others to comment on. Flexibility is expected by those working remotely and is one benefit that allows hybrid organizations to grow.
Honor the calendar conundrum
Many organizations are embracing distributed and hybrid work cultures. Not only does this support a flexible schedule for employees but being released from physical space expands the ability to grow a talent pool. It also creates a calendar challenge – having team members in multiple time zones and regions with differences in cultural work norms makes finding a convenient meeting time an adventure.
At TXI, we practice having “no meeting” Wednesdays. Or flip the script and experiment with dedicating one day a week to meetings and see if that relieves the pressure everyone is feeling.
Don’t have a meeting
The joke about “this meeting could have been an email” is a realistic alternative for many. If you’re wondering if you need a meeting, you probably don’t. Permit yourself to cancel if you realize that a meeting could be replaced by an email or other methods of communication. One of our TXI teams has two weekly standing meetings to keep calendar time clear. We then decide together the day before whether that block still serves us.
Knowing that we can choose at the moment creates space for us to make the right choice and offers us another opportunity to avoid zoom fatigue.
As we've worked to adjust to our new distributed work life, we have been experimenting with how to bring Inclusion Meeting Cards to the virtual space. With our custom Zoom backgrounds and podcast, you can support more inclusive conversations in your next conference call.