“Zoom fatigue” was a 2020 buzzword — and for good reason.
On March 23, 2020, just a few weeks after the work-at-home boom began, daily global Zoom downloads hit 2.13 million — up from 56,000 per day only two months before.
Working from home is great, but the problem is Zoom and its cousins — UberConference, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet — created more time spent in often unproductive and time-consuming meetings.
Among remote employees since the start of the pandemic:
- They have attended over 13% more meetings.
- 38% have experienced video call burnout.
- 25% of working parents have spent over half of their on-the-job hours in virtual meetings.
Sources: Robert Half, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge
Why Senior Leaders Should Be Concerned
Too many virtual meetings will cost your business.
In a 2019 survey of more than 1,900 professionals, 89% of participants reported wasting anywhere from 1 to 10+ hours per week on unproductive meetings. That leaves only 11% of employees who actually find meetings productive. And 67% say that meetings keep them from getting their best work done.
Plus, it’s expensive. Americans lose an estimated $37 billion to unproductive meetings each year.
What You Can Do About It
Here at CareContent, we’ve all been at risk for that Zoom fatigue. But we’ve also been fortunate. Having worked from home four days a week prior to the pandemic, we had a leg-up on making video meetings successful. It just took making an extra effort to not go overboard with virtual meetings.
Here are some of the ways that our leadership has ensured that the team isn’t overwhelmed with meetings, both before and during the pandemic. Feel free to steal away.
“The goal isn’t to have more meetings just because we have the availability and technology to do so quickly and easily, without commuting. We need to get to, ‘How can we get our time back as a result of all this easy access?’”
— Kadesha Thomas Smith, CEO, CareContent
1. Don’t schedule meetings every single day.
Choose one or two days a week when you can have meetings. And then stick to it. Unless there’s an emergency or it’s quick (max. 15 minutes) with one of your team members, don’t accept meetings that aren’t on those blocked-off days.
It’s okay if all you do on that day or two is meetings and nothing else. As long as you have other days set aside for head-down work, you don’t need to worry about not getting other tasks done on meeting days.
Also, having a few days where you know you won’t have meetings allows you to be more flexible — which is great during the pandemic. If you need to help your child with their schoolwork or run to the doctor, you won’t need to panic about missing meetings.
2. Or, do the opposite.
If you can’t block out a few days to have meetings, block out a few times when you definitely cannot have them. Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are a no for us.
3. Don’t even have meetings.
Of course, there will be times when you absolutely need to have meetings. But before you schedule one, ask yourself — is this something I could just send via email?
If it’s not, voice recordings are an excellent alternative when you really just need to explain something rather than have a conversation. Grab your phone or laptop, open up a recording app, and start talking.
This isn’t just a time saver. It’s also a method for ensuring that your team member actually remembers what you said. One study found that 95% of employees admit to missing parts of meetings, and nearly 40% have confessed to falling asleep during them. With a voice recording, they will have something to go back to if zone out.
4. Take meeting vacations.
Every 2 months or so, take a week-long meeting hiatus. No new meetings. No standing ones. Give yourself a whole week to tackle that x-y-z task list that requires long stretches of concentration.
And if you take an actual vacation — don’t call into meetings then, either. That’s lame.
5. Delegate meetings.
Senior leaders don’t need to be at every single meeting. If you’re swamped, skip on the meetings that are round robins where people just give status updates or discuss upcoming tasks.
Delegate someone to be the notetaker and have them deliver the notes in your preferred format. A list of bullet points, a two-paragraph email, a voice recording — anything that lets you get the key parts of the meeting in the easiest, most digestible way.
6. Invest in awesome project management software.
Invest your time, energy, and possibly a little money (if you want pro features) on high-quality project management software. It’s amazing how many meetings the right software can eliminate.
There are hundreds of different programs available, and some offer either free trials or free “lite” versions.
You don’t need to find the most elaborate program with all the bells and whistles. Find one that is easy to use, has good tech support, and communicates on your behalf so that you can cut back on meetings.
Cutting back on meetings might mean changing up your usual workflow a little bit. But once you realize how nice it is to not have meetings all day, every day, you might actually get something done.