Suddenly Remote Struggles, Part 3: Wonder why you are more exhausted after a day of online meetings?

After working from home for a month, Peter finds himself more exhausted than working in the office for 10+ hours a day. He also finds that he has developed some terrible habits, one of them being sitting in the same chair for 8-10 hours or more with back-to-back meetings, with even no time for bio breaks. 

Do you feel the same way? If so, I have some suggestions for you.

With this suddenly remote environment, it’s easy to schedule meetings back-to-back with no breaks in between. In the office, at least you get to walk from 1 conference room to another, which allows you time to stretch your legs and look at different scenery. In the online world, you only see a box (the video screen) during the meeting. When you go from meeting to meeting, you just go from 1 box to another without needing to move at all. It’s one of the reasons you are so exhausted after a full day of online meetings. To remedy that, there are 2 fundamental things you need to do: 

  1. Self care and discipline. 
  2. Examine the meetings which you call and the ones you need to attend. Are those all necessary?

We already discussed how to examine the meetings in the previous post. So, we’ll concentrate on self care and discipline.

When we are working in the office, it seems to be acceptable (though a bad practice) to have back-to-back meetings with some people joining late, because they have a prior meeting which either runs over time, or they need time to walk to the next conference room, or they need to take a bio break in between. It is even acceptable if it were the meeting host who joins late. Unfortunately, this poor practice is magnified especially when you are the meeting host. People cannot join the meeting if the meeting host doesn’t “start” the online meeting. It seems like people are trying to be even more productive during this unprecedented time. However, it produces an opposite effect. You need to be disciplined to ensure you take care of yourself and set an example to others so they would do the same. The following are a couple suggestions:

  1. Block off time on your calendar to take meals and breaks. Ensure you have time during the day to stretch your legs, take bio breaks, eat, and let your colleagues know.
    1. You need to be confident to notify your colleagues when you need a break and not be afraid to say “no” to meetings, or that you might be late. Don’t worry about colleagues (and bosses) wondering why you would say no since you are home all day anyway. 
    2. If you are a manager, you need to set a good example for your teams:
      1. Announce times you are blocking off for meals or when you need to do things for your family during “work hours”, etc. and encourage your team to do the same. This way, your team would realize they can follow suit.
      2. If you are not managing teams which spread all around the world, you should also set a good boundary and tell your colleagues and teammates that you will not be working after a certain time in the evening, which includes not reading work emails or taking work calls or sending and replying to work messages. Are those truly critical or can they wait until the next day? This is a discipline which I find many managers could improve.
      3. If you are managing globally distributed teams, that may not be doable since your “off” hours are their work hours. However, you should still block out some time during your day to tend to your family needs and tell your teammates and colleagues ahead of time. It would set a good example for the people reporting to you that it’s ok to do.
  2. Sometimes having back-to-back meetings are necessary, then make sure you either cut the meeting short by 10 minutes or start the next meeting 10 minutes later, to allow yourself (and others) time to take bio breaks.

Any other struggles that you have experienced in this unusual time? Share with me below. I’d love to hear them.

The entire series:
Part 1: What if your meeting attendees refuse to turn on video cameras?
Part 2: Meeting as usual? Think again
Part 3: Wonder why you are more exhausted after a day of online meetings?
Part 4: Tips on how not to feel overwhelmed in this unusual time

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