When we are all an office, communication could be as simple as stopping by someone’s desk for a quick question or to have a brief discussion. Now, this requires an email, a phone call, a zoom meeting, increasing the time and effort just to connect.
One sad consequence of this new routine is communication burnout. If you’re feeling burned out in your virtual meetings, chances are your fellow leaders, team, and customers are feeling it, too. You can try to self talk your way out of it, but if you aren’t feeling engaged yourself, it is probably a futile strategy to energise your team. As they say, you must put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. Here are a few ideas that may help.
Give time back
I am currently coaching with a company that is extremely efficient with their meetings. One of the key traits I like about working with this company is that if we accomplish everything we need to before the allotted time is over, the leader of the meeting says, “Now we are all clear on next steps, so let’s give everyone time back.”
Each time this occurs, it feels like a gift that is priceless. So when possible, if you know the goals of the meeting have been accomplished, and it is 5, 10, or 15 minutes before the scheduled end, don’t feel obligated to use the entire time for the sake of using the entire time. Finish early when possible. It is a great way to acknowledge the meeting accomplished its purpose and allow the participants time for productivity or recharging.
Schedule breaks better
Like many, I made the mistake early in the pandemic of scheduling meetings after meeting with no breaks. I felt exhausted by the end of the day, but couldn’t understand why. I was dealing with the same workload and meetings I was used to. Since then, we’ve learned that virtual communication takes far more of your concentration and cognitive effort. It is important to give yourself more breaks.
Be sure to give yourself at least 10 minutes in between meetings. Meetings will occasionally run over the scheduled time. With a 10-minute buffer, you can avoid both being late to the next meeting and the related stress of anticipating being late. If you are running on time, you can take those 10-minute intervals to walk away from your screen, give your eyes a break.
While routine can be comforting, look for variety when it comes to your communication, especially in a virtual setting. One way to achieve this is with the camera function in your meetings. There can be a striking difference when interactions usually held on camera move to audio only.
I always suggest you match whatever the other person is doing in a one on one. If you are in a team setting, it should be agreed to either have all cameras on (if possible) or all cameras off. But if you are routinely holding meetings one way or the other, a change in format can breathe life into interactions that have become routine and stale.