When the global pandemic began in early 2020, it completely upended the way we work. The shift to remote work and virtual meetings created a huge push regarding the technology employees use daily.
Since then, we’ve seen various trends come and go but at this point, it’s safe to say hybrid work is here to stay.
While working from home under a hybrid model has some great benefits for employees, research shows that there’s one thing many people struggle with: taking a break.
In fact, according to the latest Microsoft Work Trend Index Special Report, remote work — specifically back-to-back virtual meetings — takes a toll on employees.
Let’s take a look.
Understanding the Effects of Back-to-Back Virtual Meetings
The report’s goal was to look at how we can address the fatigue created by back-to-back virtual meetings. Data was gathered by having participants in the study wear EEG equipment to monitor brain activity during virtual meetings.
The study was conducted in two parts. First, participants attended four back-to-back virtual meetings, each focusing on a different task. Then on another day, participants attended four meetings, but this time, they had 10-minute breaks to regroup.
Participants used the downtime to meditate before heading to the next meeting.
Virtual meetings and hybrid work aren’t going anywhere. It’s time to focus on how to do this more effectively while reducing stress for employees.
The report from Microsoft provided three main takeaways for how this challenge can be addressed, as employees working at this pace simply isn’t sustainable for the long term.
Here are the three key takeaways from the report.
#1. Stress Accumulates from One Meeting to the Next
When an employee does consecutive virtual meetings, there’s no time to reset. This means stress starts to build, as was evidenced by the brain scans of the research participants.
When they were allowed to take a break in between their virtual meetings – even for a few minutes – they were more relaxed, and there was no stress buildup despite them completing the same number of virtual meetings.
#2. Taking Breaks Creates Better Brain Engagement
When the participants were in the back-to-back virtual meetings, their ability to engage and focus decreased. Conversely, when taking breaks to unplug between virtual meetings, their brainwave patterns highlight more positive levels of frontal alpha asymmetry, allowing for better engagement.
Simply states – when we take breaks, it creates an environment for improved productivity and effectiveness.
#3. Our Brains Do Better When We Have Time to Transition
While observing the participants, the brain activity scans showed that having no time to take a breather before switching gears increases stress levels. However, when the participants were given time to reset between their virtual meetings, the transitions were much easier and there were minimal jumps in the brain wave activity.
Specific Ways to Reduce Virtual Meeting Fatigue
Based on these findings, there are things that companies can implement to create a more effective, less stressful work environment and improve the overall experience of virtual meetings.
Here are a few based on the report:
Embrace Taking Breaks
Deciding to move from one meeting to another without taking a break has your employees feeling like they’re being super productive, but in fact, it’s the opposite.
Breaks should be considered a critical part of any day at work, and employees should be encouraged to take a break. Implement technology that allows for calendar rules or other features that enable employees to create these valuable breaks between meetings. (And ensure everyone is trained on how to use them!)
Tools like Microsoft Viva (a component of Office 365) allow for automated break scheduling and can enforce meeting standards of 25 or 50 minutes, ensuring that employees take a few minutes.
Look for Meeting Alternatives
Does that meeting you’re planning really need to happen? Is there another way you can communicate that doesn’t involve everyone hopping on a scheduled video call together?
Email, chat, or using collaborative documents may get the job done just as easily as booking a meeting. Unified Communications and Collaboration platforms are offering new options that are worth exploring that will create new ways of working together that reduce employee fatigue.
What about just making an unscheduled call and chatting for 5-10 minutes rather than filling a schedule with a firm 30 minute slot?
Up Your Moderation Game
Virtual meetings are still going to happen, so when you do have meetings, you need to find ways to make them more interactive.
Many platforms offer features that can be used for this purpose, including breakout rooms, whiteboards and the raise your hand feature. Facilitating and moderating meetings is an art. These tools can help make your meetings more engaging and less stressful.
Rethinking Virtual Meetings with the Right Technology
As we mentioned earlier, virtual meetings aren’t going anywhere, so having some strategies to reduce fatigue and make meetings more interactive and valuable will go a long way.
Keep in mind that the right Unified Communication and Collaboration platform can provide you with innovative ways to make virtual meetings more engaging, and provide ways for your hybrid team to stay connected without constantly needing to be on Zoom or Teams.
Ready to explore a new approach to communications and collaboration? Bridgepointe can help. Our Unified Communications and Collaboration experts can help you find the right technology for your hybrid team.
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