#71: How to drastically reduce virtual meetings & boost engagement

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How can teamwork be more fun again? How can we reduce the number of virtual meetings? How can we increase engagement and feel less fatigued? Is quitting the only answer to feeling tired of work?

In this blog, I’ll answer these questions and more.

Never in my career have I seen so many people feeling exhausted, disengaged, anxious, or stressed. 

The workload is extremely high everywhere. People are reviewing their priorities, and the great resignation has started leaving even more workload for those who stay. People are also missing the fun of collaborating the deeper conversations with their colleagues, the informal exchanges that inspire or give this boost in motivation. Work has become very transactional and focused on tasks and projects. 

And when a team organizes an online cooking lesson, a quiz or an online chat, fewer and fewer colleagues come because it doesn't give them enough energy anymore. And of course, when you spend many hours in a virtual meeting, you feel drained, and the perspective of doing something fun in another video conference isn't appealing.

Virtual meetings drain people more than in-person meetings

According to research from Professor Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, there are four primary reasons why video chats fatigue humans:

  1. The first one is an excessive amount of close-up eye contact, and that is highly intense. In a normal meeting, people will variously be looking at a speaker, taking notes or looking elsewhere, but on video calls, everyone is looking at everyone all the time. 
  2. Secondly, seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real time is fatiguing
  3. Thirdly, video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility. In person or audio phone conversations allow humans to walk around and move. But with video conferencing, most cameras are fixed, meaning a person has to generally stay in the same spot. Movement is then limited in ways that are not natural. 
  4. And the fourth reason why video chat is fatiguing people is that the cognitive load is much higher in video chats. Bailenson notes that in regular face to face interaction, nonverbal communication is quite natural. And each of us naturally makes and interprets gestures and nonverbal cues subconsciously. But in video chats, we have to work harder to send and receive signals. 

Here are some quick wins to reduce the video chat fatigue

  1. Reduce your video chat window for less close-up eye contact
  2. Use the “hide self-view” button so that you don't see yourself anymore. 
  3. Put your camera further away from yourself so that you can move more.
  4. And give yourself an “audio only” break. And by that of course I mean turning your camera off, but also looking away. Don't look at the other people don't look at yourself, just give yourself a break and listen and still talk but without camera. That will allow you to recharge your batteries a little bit. 

So implementing these four solutions will slightly help. But in fact, a great way to boost engagement remotely is by drastically reducing your number of meetings and your workloads. 

But how can you drastically reduce your number of meetings? 

You need to redesign teamwork because hybrids or remote work only enhances what was already present in your team. And by hybrid, I mean working partly remotely and partly from home. 

So, if your workload was already high at the office, it became even higher when working remotely. If you had many meetings before you even have more meetings today. 

Today, most teams have only replaced their face-to-face meetings with virtual ones. Some have added chat to it. But that is often the extent of hybrid work. And clearly, it doesn't deliver the results we want. We feel drained, stressed, we're tired of these back-to-back meetings. 

Do you remember when companies started digitalizing? 

Very often, they started by doing the same as what they've always done, but online. And in the beginning, it led to more work and it wasn't very efficient. But then came the realization that mindset culture, business models and processes needed to change if you want it to succeed in your digital transformation, and many companies profiled completely changed. Well, the same is going to happen with hybrid teamwork.

Mindsets, habits, culture, and processes of successful hybrid teams will drastically change with hybrid teamwork

And the teams that don't design their teamwork carefully, will probably remain in the vicious circle of working hard and feeling disengaged. 

So in fact, I'm here to tell you there is light at the end of this dark tunnel, you might not have to quit to feel meaningful and engaged again. And if you listen to my podcast, you know, I'm all about helping people find meaning balance and impact in their life and career. Working on yourself, of course, is key, you have to change your mindsets and habits if you don't want to drain yourself. But it's not enough.

Changing your teamwork, your processes, organizational structure and systems is also necessary if you want to find that impact and balance. And that's why I also created the course “Leading to empowerment”, where you will carefully design great teamwork with your team. 

There are five steps if you want to implement great teamwork:

  1.  Increase empowerment within your team. 

And to have empowerment is not simply about giving more responsibility to team members you have for success criteria: clarity, autonomy, fearless team, and you need an authentic leader to have empowerment. 

Now, if you're curious to know how your team is doing in empowerment, you can do a free self-assessment, just go to Qileader.com/teamwork. And you'll find that free assessment there to measure how you're doing on these four success criteria and what your empowerment score is. 

  1. Embrace hybrid communication composed of 5 elements:
  • Synchronous communication. A meeting is a synchronous communication, it happens at the same time, when you're chatting and the other person is responding immediately, then you're also doing synchronous communication. Well, if you want to drastically reduce your meeting time, you also need to embrace …
  • Asynchronous communication. And you can do that with a project management tool, with emails. But I really love using a project management tool, where you will describe your processes and see what you are working on and see what other people are working on. 
  • Then you need uninterrupted work time. Because that is necessary. You need time to think to recharge your batteries, to be creative, to step back to analyze something…
  • Then you need planned spontaneity
  • And lastly, visible teamwork because you're not at the office anymore where you can see what other people are working on or hear what they're working on. You need to make the work visible. And that's where a team's playbook where all these aspects of empowerment but also all your processes, your objectives, your roles, your decision making, how you're going to communicate is described. And everyone can find anything back. 

  1. Manage your processes and the mood of your team 

You’re probably quite good at managing projects and tasks. But you also need to manage your processes and the mood of your team. For processes, it's about looking back (what went well, what went wrong) then redesigning them (how can we improve the processes, describing them, documenting them and improving them on a regular basis). And again, I like to make them visible. And that's why we use a project management tool where all our processes are documented. And that makes it really easy to then copy a process and apply it to a new project. You immediately know what all the steps are that we need to implement, and who's doing what. By continuously improving your processes, you’ll have less and less problems arising

And then of course, you need to manage the mood of your team and measure the mood. You're not at the office anymore, so you don't know how people are feeling when they're far away from you. So you need to measure that. And plan informal meetings and spontaneity, which people will come to if they're not spending all their time in meetings. 

  1. The fourth aspect you need is cultural alignment. 

Empowerment, visible communication, managing processes, these are all new habits. And culture is the sum of the habits within your team. So, if you want cultural alignment with those new processes, it's all about changing the habits of the people of that team. For instance, the habit of documenting things, the habit of giving feedback to each other, the habit of not looking at mistakes as something bad, but something we learn from, especially necessary if you want that fearless team that you need for empowerment. 

  1. And the last one is an excellent onboarding. 

Because there we see also that more and more people have a sense of self-doubt, they suffer from the imposter syndrome. So in a meeting, and especially a virtual meeting, they might look like they know what they're doing. And they might look confident, or sometimes, but they simply don't speak, it might be because they have doubts about themselves. And what we've seen in the statistics is that people that have started in remote teams and in hybrid teams, without having an excellent onboarding, suffer much more from this imposter syndrome than others. 

So it's really important there again, to plan carefully the onboarding of new people, otherwise, they will leave very soon. And you know that it's already hard with this war of talent to hire people. So when you have found someone great, you better do everything that is important to keep that person happy in your team. 

So those were the five elements empowerment, hybrid communication, managing processes and mood, cultural alignment and excellent onboarding. Once you've implemented all this, and designed your collaboration with your team, the number of meetings will decrease and engagement will increase. You'll reach better objectives and work will be fun again. Now, I want you to look at your team.

Is teamwork in your current team carefully designed or was it left to chance?

If you need help with this, you can go to Qileader.com/teamwork where you can assess your team but you can also see what you will learn in leading to empowerment where we will carefully design teamwork with your team

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