For many, the virtual meeting space was a convenient add-on to their usual in-person meeting routine, accommodating participants who couldn’t otherwise attend. Then abruptly, COVID-19 changed the stakes; financial institutions (FIs) and other industry players found themselves relying on virtual meetings as their primary method to communicate across teams and organizations.

New tools with unintended consequences

Months into the pandemic, many professionals who work remotely and rely on virtual meeting spaces are reporting “Zoom fatigue.” Harvard Business Review and others lend credence to the idea that, while convenient, virtual meeting spaces have a downside. While technology has revolutionized the ability to remain productive and engaged, it presents its own sets of complications, such as the inability to pick up on non-verbal cues and an abundance of interruptions (think kids and pets). There are even indications that staring at your face on camera for extended periods of time can create stress and heighten negative emotions.

Solutions for building better meeting experiences

Small adaptations can yield significant results. Fortunately, there are a number of simple strategies FI professionals and others can use to make the most of their virtual meeting experiences.

  • One thing at a time

    The virtual meeting space isn’t the same as the physical meeting room, but one rule applies to both: give the meeting at hand (and its participants) your full attention. It can be tempting to answer emails and respond to instant messages, but closing nonessential browser tabs and placing your phone face down will likely help you engage in the meeting more fully and retain information (and the email you’re crafting on the sly will likely benefit from your full attention later.)
  • Consider other communication methods

    While Zoom and other virtual meeting tools have become a de facto communication method, the need to dial in may not be appropriate for every interaction. Instant messaging, email, and phone calls may fit the bill just fine, especially for one-on-one communications. (And some offline chat may serve as a replacement for water-cooler chat, breaking up the often-monotonous experience of working remotely.)
  • Require agendas

    Without a shared goal, meetings can quickly devolve into uncomfortable silence or meandering small talk. Set expectations for every meeting so participants can come prepared, accomplish their shared objectives, and maybe even salvage a little time for other tasks.
  • Consider shorter meeting times

    Bigger projects may call for longer meetings, but don’t let the calendar dictate meeting length. Shorter meetings can often encourage participants to hit the ground running and move quickly to the next objective.
  • Give your camera a break

    Seeing yourself on-screen can create a sense of needing to “always be on” that can contribute to virtual meeting fatigue. If your company policy permits it, consider keeping your camera off during some meetings. (Or go low-tech and place a sticky note over your on-screen image.)

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