While there is light at the end of the #COVID19 tunnel, there is no doubt many folks are struggling with burnout. HBR and others have covered the topic extensively. Having started my career at the small boutique accounting firm of Arthur Andersen, I thought I knew what burnout looked like, but COVID has taken things to a whole new level.

To add insult to injury, folks are working more, have less ability to impose boundaries between their families and/or personal life, and are stressed for all sorts of reasons. Then we pile on the meetings. More and more meetings, video meetings (on 8 different platforms), conference calls with nuclear launch codes, "can you hear me?"...

I thought I would take a moment to share a few of the best practices I've seen or learned in the last year to hopefully help lessen the burden.

1.Does this really need to be a meeting?

Let's start at the top. If we are just reviewing a spreadsheet, sharing a document, reviewing a to-do list, etc., let's skip the meeting. There are great platforms like Slack, Teams, and in a pinch, even...email to share documents that can be reviewed and responded to in an asynchronous manner.

2. Hey, have you heard about Time Zones?

If you have folks working in more than one time zone, be mindful that your 9:00AM zoom call in NY is a 7:00AM Zoom call here in Colorado, which for me, is right in the middle of dropping my son off at school. Sometimes, it can't be avoided, but if we can all be a bit mindful and set scheduling parameters there will be a lot more happy campers out there. Also, if it needs to be outside of regular hours, maybe just a conference call vs. zoom. Making people get dressed up for your call at 6:00AM only adds insult to injury.

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3. Can we schedule in advance?

Well, that came out of nowhere...or did it? If you have quarterly sales meetings, board meetings, division meetings, etc. try scheduling them at least a quarter in advance. If you want a gold star, you could even try scheduling them for the year. Everyone appreciates having certainty and the ability to plan around these commitments vs. having them sprung on you with 3 days notice which often leads to having to reschedule prior commitments.

5. Buffer Zones

This is a small one, but a good one. We default to 1 hour or 30-minute meetings. Why is that again? Try 25 minutes, 45 minutes, or 50 minutes. It is SOOOO nice. With that "extra time" you give folks time to get a coffee, send that quick email, hit HeadSpace for 5, etc. Your colleagues and clients will dig it.

6. To Zoom or Not to Zoom

Who else is really sick of looking at themselves on zoom? There certainly is a place for Zoom, Teams, Google Meets, BlueJeans (it's a long story), but that place isn't all day every day. People are really tired of video calls if there isn't a compelling reason like screen share, first introductions to colleagues, deep content collaboration etc. I've taken to taping this younger picture of myself over my screen so I don't have to constantly check what I look like. Feel free to use it if you like.

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7. Dunning Kruger and Associates

This has been one of the most eye-opening (sadly) aspects of meeting palooza 2020. If you aren't a Adam Grant, Daniel Pink, HBR nerd like me, let me summarize the Dunning Kruger effect- that loud guy in the meetings...he often knows the least and has the worst ideas. Getting engagement from the full diversity of your team is one of the few compelling reasons to have a meeting. So... be sure to engage your entire team. There is no one size fits all method for this. A few ideas that I've seen work include asking in advance if team members would be open to presenting sub-topics or soliciting input from the team in advance on key strategies. Asking folks directly for input during a meeting can work great, but can also make people put on the spot. For larger meetings I find the chat feature and live polls open up a lot of communication that otherwise doesn't happen.

Closing Thought

Even as we come out of the COVID pandemic, virtual meetings are going to be a fixture of the modern work environment. I'm optimistic the opportunity to have spontaneous interactions will lessen the need for many of the meetings currently clogging our calendars, but for the meetings we have to have, hopefully, we can make them a bit more engaging, mindful, and productive.

A few great podcasts on strategies -

How to Make Meetings Less Terrible (Ep. 389) - Freakonomics Freakonomics

Vanessa Van Edwards on Navigating the Virtual Workplace in Stressful Times – Distributed.blog