Do you feel more tired after an online meeting than after meetings in real life? Why? And, what can you practically do about it?
There are plenty of posts with advice about the tech or techniques of running online meetings. In this post, I want to focus on ENERGY. (You remember that, right?)
Why are online meetings more tiring, particularly more mentally exhausting?
- NOVELTY: It’s new for most. Brains put their foot on the gas for novelty. In our cave-dwelling times, new things could eat us or be eaten by us.
- VARIATION: The apps and set-ups are different. What worked last time mightn’t this time. Brains are attuned to this risk even if it works fine.
- DISTRACTION: People’s virtual backgrounds might add value. Many do not and are, at best, a toy. A participant with no ears or pixelated hair diminishes their message and makes listeners’ brains do more heavy lifting. There are also other distractions from other work-from-home lockdown participants like partners, kids, pets, chores.
- SENSORY FEEDBACK VACUUM: Again from our cave-dwelling days, brains are always assessing the people with whom we interact – words, tone of voice, body language. Even in HD, the virtual meeting rooms leave out many of those signals or mess them up with noise. Nevertheless, they are an essential service for our brains and brains will actively seek them out. When they’re not there, that activity gets more frantic & consumes more energy.
- FACTUAL FEEDBACK DISCONNECT: Time is limited, others are tired too. Brains strongly dislike incomplete information loops. The Zeigarnik Effect notes that these incomplete loops help our task memory as it compels us not to leave things unfinished but if they cannot be finished because the meeting ended, the brain keeps on looping on repeat.
This energy problem has an ENERGY solution:
E – Eat snacks that support a balanced GI level throughout the day. You already know this. Google for ideas (maybe during a boring online meeting?)
N – Normalise check-ins. Allow people to express their distractions in advance, not apologetically but matter-of-factly. Most of us are in the same boat.
E – Enquire about people’s feelings about the facts. Google DeBono’s 6 thinking hats as a technique (maybe during a boring online meeting?) Connection and reconnection are vital and don’t have to eat up a lot of time if done in a structured and managed way.
R – Relax. I know telling someone to relax is the 180 opposite of getting someone to relax, even with yourself, so forget the telling and do the DOING. Be aware of yourself becoming overly tense and DO some stretching and breathing techniques you’ve googled during a previous boring online meeting.
G – Get used to the tech varieties. Set up practices with friends and colleagues. Plug n play n practise.
Y – You have to take responsibility for closing your own loops. Keep a note of your questions / concerns and speak up if they’re not addressed.
Post-lockdown and even post-pandemic, online meetings will have a new emphasis in our business dealings and relationship support. Now’s the time to work on this while people are mostly in the same boat and still pretty forgiving. That largesse will diminish in the months ahead and you don’t want to be left behind. There is not yet an app that allows you to plug yourself into a charger like you plug in your phone but I bet you check your phone’s energy level and address that before it runs out. Treat yourself with at least as much respect as you treat your phone.