If You're Exhausted by Zoom, Try Reverse Meetings Instead

TSP • @myTSPnet


Have you ever logged out of your last Zoom meeting for the day and found yourself completely drained? If so, you’re not alone. Many are dealing with Zoom fatigue, which refers to the exhaustion you feel after any kind of video call or conference. This fatigue comes from the increased cognitive demands of video conferencing communication.

Even if you’re already plugged into modern technology, the COVID-19 pandemic brought an entirely new meaning to the phrase digital world. Zoom helps continue face-to-face interaction but, as with most good things, there’s a cost. Most humans are not wired to sit still, maintain eye contact and stare at video of themselves for hours on end. 

In face-to-face conversations and meetings participants never see themselves, but in video conferencing they see themselves captured by a webcam in real-time on a monitor. This creates the unusual situation of sitting in front of a mirror all the time and participating in a conversation or meeting.

When we see our own reflection, we become more critical of ourselves. Constantly seeing yourself is hard on your personal image and causes unnecessary stress. So how do you manage to continue working in this new digital world without burnout? Reverse meetings to the rescue.

The idea is that instead of sending countless Zoom invites, we all adopt virtual office hours and pop in for quick conversations as issues arise. These cuts miscellaneous, back-to-back meetings down and gives everyone a time slot for virtual interactions. In fact, the tool Remotehour is made for office hours for this purpose. Remotehour has an office hours feature that allows you to list what days and times you have office hours and post them in your room.

Your guests can register for office hours in advance and receive reminders the day before or before office hours start. Of course, your calendar can be linked automatically.

Employees can set times each week during which they are always available via Zoom, chat and on the phone. During these times, colleagues are welcome to digitally stop by and chat without a meeting appointment.

If there’s a topic that must be discussed with a group of colleagues, instead of gathering together in a new meeting, you instead visit each of their office hours to talk through the topic at hand.

In many cases, these one-on-one conversations should be sufficient for you to reach a resolution on the issue, or at the very least, reduce it down to a very targeted set of questions that can be much more efficiently addressed.

As an added bonus, reverse meetings also reverse the asymmetric consequences of these gatherings. It’s now significantly more costly to initiate a meeting than it is to attend. The result? Less meetings are convened in the first place. 

Reverse meetings end up being much less of a time suck. For example, an hour-long meeting with six attendees to finalize a marketing plan would end up in a total 360 minutes of the participants’ productive time. In the reverse meeting scenario, the necessary questions would only take 10 minutes from each colleague, taking up 50 minutes total of the organizer’s time and 50 minutes of the participants’ time. This results in an overall demand of 100 minutes of attention, which is 3.6 less times the cost.

Another similar format to reverse meetings is meeting quota. In this scenario, each person has three afternoon slots available each day for meetings — that is it. Once the time slots are filled, the meeting request has to move on to another day. This enforces an artificial scarcity on collaborative attention and ensures there is enough focus left for other types of work.

Of course, there are circumstances when it is easier to have everyone in the same room, virtual or physical, at one time. However, setting up office hours and giving this idea a try is probably worth it to help save your team from Zoom fatigue.