As the global pandemic moves past the half-year point, the “new normal” has really become the new normal. The novelty of Zoom meetings has faded into routine. The initial spark of motivation to power through the COVID-19 situation is starting to dwindle, too, and we’re now exiting the honeymoon phase of remote working.
The fun activities that we did at the start of the pandemic are no longer fun. Instead, we’ve grown accustomed to remote work, and now it’s just the way things are. There’s even a meme for this shifting sentiment: so-called “Zoom fatigue.”
Just because the team moved from the real world to the digital one doesn’t mean that you don’t face some of the same problems.
One of the biggest problems and employee concerns over the entire COVID-19 situation is burnout.
To prevent burnout, you need to learn how to run effective remote team meetings that don’t tire your team out.
With that in mind, here are the top four ways how to run effective remote team meetings without causing burnout.
1. Engage all remote participants
Engaging participants is difficult even in office meetings where you can see everyone and feel the mood and atmosphere of the room.
In the virtual world, you don’t have the luxury of seeing the complete body language of everyone in the room. That being the case, you need to come extra prepared to each meeting.
To effectively engage remote participants, the first thing you need to do is realize how your team members are adjusting to online team meetings.
Some members are introverted and they find it harder to influence other people, talk informally with them, and speak their minds. So, prepare in advance to give them space where they can do exactly that. One method to consider is kicking the meeting off with a virtual icebreaker so team members can get to know each other in a more casual setting.
Other employees get distracted by the repetition of each meeting’s agenda. So, prepare in advance by making sure to include a variety of points on the agenda to make it interesting.
While certain employees want to see other people’s faces when they talk (i.e., camera on), others prefer turning their camera off to stay private. You can keep everyone in the virtual room comfortable and adapt to these shifting preferences by allowing employees to choose whether they want to turn their camera on or off. You can also give the hybrid model a try where you turn your camera when you’re listening to others and turn it on when you’re speaking.
The last thing to keep in mind when it comes to engaging all remote participants is time zones—particularly if you have an international operation.
Make sure that remote meetings are timed in a way so that everyone who needs to attend will be able to do so in a normal working hour (or as close to one as possible). The hardest thing for an employee is to be productive and engaged while talking at 3 a.m. on a Zoom meeting. It simply doesn’t work.
Also, only send invitations to the team members that need to attend the meeting. Don’t clutter it by inviting people who don’t need to be there.
2. Be a coach
One of the best things you can do to prevent burnout is to provide emotional support for your team members.
The entire COVID-19 situation made employees feel uneasy about their employment and financial situation. Will they have a job next month? How will stress impact their productivity? Who will be the next person in line to get fired because of the crisis?
All of these questions are valid concerns (and fears) from your employees. The way you deal with them is through emotional support and being a coach. This is, of course, easier to do in the offline world. But it can still be done in the online world.
One thing you can do is start every meeting with a check-in that lasts around 15 minutes to see how everyone in the team is doing. While 15 minutes might seem like a lot to ask from everyone on the team, those 15 minutes will deliver a significant number of benefits to the team.
The check-in can be a simple “concern, challenge, and success” two-minute story sharing that they had this day or week. Or you can simply ask a straightforward question: “How are you doing today?”
The point being, these check-ins don’t just have to be professional. They can be personal as well. Many employees are struggling with work-life balance at the moment because they are forced to work from home. By connecting with your employees on a personal level, you can help your team re-establish some of that balance.
This exercise, when done enough times, will create a sense of trust, camaraderie, and stability for everyone in the team.
While you’re at it, you can also coach your team members by providing emotional stability, support, and psychological safety. This improves the well-being of your team members and increases the effectiveness of your team.
Oh yeah: Don’t forget about having regular one-on-one meetings with your team members, either. This is where your coaching skills can truly shine.
3. Make sure that your team members establish boundaries
A cartoon joke making the rounds recently went something like this:
- An employee is sitting at home and his wife walks over to him.
- “What are you doing?” the wife asks.
- And he responds:
- “I’m not sure if I’m working from home or living at work.”
The problem with remote work is that it can start to blur the borders of work-life balance. With everyone working at home, employees can work at almost any (or every) hour, and the traditional 9 to 5 time boundary is no longer applicable.
One of the top 10 employee concerns over COVID-19 is burnout. And the transition to working from home has only exacerbated that issue. Our recent Employee Engagement report found that burnout was the top issue, followed by job security (15 percent) and productivity (6 percent).
Working around the clock can quickly destabilize the well-being of team members because they no longer have time in their schedule to invest in their hobbies and leisure activities. This prevents them from resting every single day and makes their burnout compound over time.
If employees never truly have time off, they can never properly rest. And then, when the time comes for the employees to be 100 percent available, they can’t do it because they haven’t rested at all.
It’s the old problem of being unable to turn off your work when you’re on a vacation. But right now, that problem expanded from a once-in-a-year situation to an almost everyday one.
To prevent this burnout from happening, make sure to increase communication with your team members and that they establish some boundaries regarding their work-life balance:
- What time they start working and when do they finish?
- What communication channels do they use?
- When will they be unavailable during the day and not respond to any messages?
- When will they use their vacation?
All of these are a starting point to establish healthy boundaries between work and life so that the cartoon joke from the start of this section doesn’t come true.
4. Propose group or individual hobbies
Since offline activities are limited and group dynamics have been contracted to the online world, you need to get creative when it comes to forming team synergy and chemistry.
Think about group activities or hobbies that could join the team together. Those might be group board games that you can play as the entire team. Or it could be a form of a team quiz or an online trivia contest. You can also try a virtual team-building activity — like having everyone cook the same meal in their own kitchen over a Zoom session. If you need additional inspiration, check out this list of 44 virtual icebreakers and team-building activities.
Keep in mind that the game itself doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it brings the team closer and creates a deeper sense of connectivity and synergy.
To be sure, there will be employees who won’t want to participate in these activities, and that’s fine as well. Make sure to propose some individual hobbies that they can do according to their wants, needs, or interests. If someone is good with their hands, they can try origami or pottery. If they like strategic thinking, they can try out chess. Or if they love math, they can do Sudoku. You get the gist.
The options are limitless, and it’s up to you as a manager to help your team members find activities that soothe them so that they don’t burn out.
To more engaging remote meetings!
The transition from the offline to the online world of working has been troublesome for many employees. One of the major concerns is burnout, and one of the main challenges companies face is trying to run effective remote team meetings without causing burnout.
To prevent this from happening, use these four methods: engaging all remote participants, being a coach to your team members, making sure that your team members establish boundaries, and proposing group or individual hobbies.
The transition period is hard for everyone. The good news is that, as the manager, you can quickly adapt to the new normal by following the four ways we stated above.
When you lead the team by example and transition into the remote role as well as you can, your team will follow the lead, and great things will happen.
Here’s to running an awesome remote meeting next time — and for years to come!