By Pieter De Wit

The current health crisis has forced many people to work from home, and zoom meetings are ubiquitous. Luckily, being home-bound for work has many advantages. My personal favourites are not having to commute, the proximity of my fridge, a more flexible work schedule and being able to wear sweatpants all day. 

Except when I have a zoom meeting planned. Then I need to freshen up and make sure I “arrive” on time. While setting up an account and working with the software is pretty straightforward, the major challenge lies in the so-called “zoom fatigue”. Attending online meetings increases our daily screen time and can be very tiring. It’s also easy to get distracted or caught up in long, inefficient discussions. 

If you suffer from zoom fatigue, don’t worry, I have you covered. These tips will help you overcome it, retain laser-sharp focus and finish just on time to change back into your sweatpants! 

Advance Preparation

I can’t stress enough the importance of an ergonomic working environment. Many remote employees, who don’t have access to a personal desk, are working from their kitchen table. If possible, sit in a room where you can work undisturbed, buy an ergonomic chair and an extra keyboard if using a laptop, so that you can set your screen at eye level.

When organising the meeting, make sure one person is in charge of the workflow. They should prepare the agenda, set the timing and act as moderator. Before logging into zoom, close all other tabs on your computer, especially emails or news sites, and put your phone on flight mode. This way, you can avoid multitasking and get yourself in meeting mode. 

Create Focus

According to Parkinson’s Law “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” By setting up a strict end time, all participants know what to expect and will be motivated to keep an efficient flow, rather than engage in chitchat or endless discussions.

Splitting longer meetings into sections of deep work with short breaks may feel counterintuitive while you are at home, but this small investment in yourself will reset your focus and keep the meeting productive. I use this in my individual work as well, with around 20 or 25 minutes of focus and 5-10 minutes rest is optimal for me. A timer is useful, I prefer the desktop Flow app because it fills up my screen every 20 minutes, forcing me to take a break. 

This resting time can be used to grab a drink, use the bathroom, or pay some attention to family, including fur babies! Personally, I find the best way to spend my break is to combine it with movement. A short stretching or exercise session elevates my heart rate, gets me out of my hunched posture, reduces my stress levels, providing the necessary blood flow for thinking clearly. 

Get Moving

The advantages of movement for focus should not be underestimated. If your company and the kind of meeting you’re attending allows it, why limit movement only to your breaks? Good ideas often pop up while you are literally walking away from your desk. Many great thinkers regularly undertake walking meetings. 

Set your camera to a wide view, get away from your desk and walk around like you would when taking a phone call. Or use your phone and go for a virtual walking meeting in your own garden or at the park—just make sure you have excellent data and stay away from too much noise. 

Getting Everyone Involved

In real-time meetings, extroverts often have the upper hand in a discussion. If you’re an introvert like me, you might attend a meeting, your mind filled with good ideas, but not feel confident enough to speak up. The meeting chairperson should operate as a moderator and provide a system to get everyone involved. For example, they could ask the participants to brainstorm ideas on a project beforehand and take turns in sharing them. A good moderator will be able to balance out the different characters, by tempering the extroverts and providing a speaking opportunity for the introverts. 

Corporate meetings are often seen as a necessary evil. Now that working from home has become the norm, online zoom meetings are increasing our screen time and tax our focus even further. But instead of just forcing our bodies into hunched back postures and adding more inefficient time to our busy schedules, we should see this challenge as an opportunity to redefine the way we organise our digital time. By preparing our workspace, taking regular power breaks and incorporating movement, we can start to embrace virtual meetings as a way to optimise creativity and workflow.