According to a new study conducted by Microsoft, jumping from one virtual conference to another without taking a break causes significant levels of stress for users, as well as impairing focus and participation throughout the meeting.

The researchers looked at the influence of back-to-back conferences on individuals’ neural activity and discovered that even a five-minute pause in between two calls can help reduce stress buildup throughout the day.

With the bulk of workers migrating to remote working this year, what were once office-based interactions have been moved online – and for many, this has resulted in calendars packed with catch-ups and video calls, with no time to rest between events.

Workdays grow longer and sometimes lack a stopping point as a result of a crowded agenda, leaving employees exhausted and with no realistic method for rest and self-care, especially since the concept of paid time off has shifted considerably. So, how then can executives help their employees avoid fatigue and virtual meeting overload during these special times?

Agendas should be sent ahead of time

It’s an oldie, but it’s a goodie. It’s worth reiterating because conferences have become even less formal than any time before. People don’t want to be caught off guard or appear foolish in front of a group. Having meeting materials in advance minimizes meeting stress by increasing assurance.

Make shutting off the camera acceptable

Face time is essential, but allowing employees to dial in helps alleviate the need to look good on-screen and the stress that comes with it. The video camera only adds distractions, worry, and fatigue unless you’re participating or connecting with other people.

Breaks should be included

Back-to-back meetings have never been easier thanks to virtual meeting technologies. Humans require time to switch gears mentally.

Taking regular breaks allows the brain to rest, which enhances the likelihood of having a breakthrough.

After a good meeting, people need at least 5 minutes of recuperation time, and after a terrible meeting, they need even more. Long meetings should be segmented as well.

Address virtual meeting fatigue immediately

It’s perfectly acceptable to discuss the elephant in the room: virtual meeting exhaustion. The desire to imitate our face-to-face interactions through video conversations has resulted in a deluge of tense virtual meetings. Prior to the epidemic, many individuals who worked with colleagues in separate offices used collaboration tools and telephone conversations to organize and manage tasks – and it worked. Is it necessary to hold a video conference for every meeting?

Organizations can bring up the subject and even establish corporate policy on online meetings, or urge teams to establish their own policies. Because it’s doubtful that employees — particularly more inexperienced employees — will feel secure bringing up the matter on their own, this pressure must start from the top.

As employees adjust to the new work environment, it’s more necessary than ever to develop a structure for managers to keep their teams thriving, which includes highlighting the consequences of virtual meeting overload and providing specific solutions.

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