How to Lead Remote Teams
June 1, 2020
Show Notes: Episode 91 – HR in Startups
June 8, 2020

“What is wrong with me?”

Do you find yourself asking this question during quarantine, as it relates to different habits or tendencies or fears you have developed since you’ve been home? I certainly do! And I’m specifically wondering “What is wrong with me?” when it comes to all these video meetings…

After all, I’m #1 in Communication according to the StrengthsFinder assessment. I’m also an “I” on the DISC Profile, and an ENFP in terms of Myers & Briggs. All of this means I am a “People Person” and a Talker, not to mention a professional communicator who works in Marketing and Branding. So why the heck can’t I handle video meetings better than I do?

I will get to “WHY” this is happening to people like me and maybe people like you, too, but, first, I’ll cover “WHAT” the Zooms/Teams/Skypes – or whatever style of meetings they are – do to me.

They drain me.
They exhaust me.
They suck the life out of me.
They make me tired, grumpy, and some days, mildly depressed.

And Virtual Happy Hours? No, thank you. That’s ZERO fun for me. It’s just another digital task. But in “real life” I rarely miss the ritual of Happy Hour.

The typical video meeting rarely feels natural to me, and I feel awkward most of the time when I am participating in one. Luckily, I know I’m not alone. I have been hearing from coworkers that they are feeling the same about video meetings.

So, WHY do some of us feel this way? I recently found an article that brought me tremendous clarity about this topic, and thank goodness! The article explained that video meetings tax our brain much differently than in-person meetings:

  • We don’t receive nearly as much body language or as many social cues. We see only heads and shoulders.
  • We are distracted by and moved to multi-task using the computers in front of us – we see our emails, our IMs, our documents, the Internet…
  • We are missing the “water cooler moments” and debriefing that takes place organically in between and after our meetings.
  • We have a hard time focusing on any one person in these meetings, even the one speaking, because we can see everyone all at once, onscreen, “Brady Bunch” style. Our brain is working harder to take all of it in.

So what can we do? In my case, I’m working at home until February 2021, so the video meeting isn’t going away for me anytime soon. I know I must protect myself against the drain of the frequent video meeting. Here are some tactics I’m trying to tackle the challenges, and so can you:

  • I block chunks of time in my day and on my calendar for “focus time” with no meetings.
  • I suggest new days for meetings if I get an invitation for a day when I already have several meetings booked.
  • I have set a maximum number of meetings per day and I do not allow myself to exceed that limit.
  • I turn off my camera if I’m not in a mood to be seen; it takes some pressure away.
  • I challenge people to tackle some items with an email discussion, rather than having a video meeting.
  • I schedule shorter meetings in 30 or 45-minute increments, less than what you would normally allow, because virtual meetings take less time than face-to-face.
  • I avoid scheduling back-to-back meetings.
  • I close all other programs and documents during a meeting so I’m not distracted and tempted to multi-task
  • I take handwritten notes during a video meeting to help me focus, listen, and retain key points.
  • And, most important, I allow myself some grace and time off – either planned and sometimes even unplanned, if my schedule and workload allows.

In fact, about that last suggestion, just today I gave myself a break. I did not have any meetings scheduled after lunchtime, and I was caught up on my priority list. So I joined my two daughters for some Netflix binging followed by a springtime stroll around our iconic Town Square. It was a liberating and rejuvenating afternoon, a small yet significant pause from the new virtual pressures of the remote office lifestyle. I highly recommend you do the same for yourself, as your time and workload allows. You owe it to yourself and your employer to be your best and healthiest self. Plus, you want to look well-rested on that next Zoom call, don’t you?!?

Michelle Payne
Michelle Payne
Michelle Payne works as AVP of Branding & Communications in Downtown Indy at Elements Financial, one of the area’s largest credit unions. Elements will turn 90 years old in 2020, and Michelle has been there for the past 17. She lives in Noblesville, only 3 blocks from the iconic Town Square. Besides spending a lot of time working and commuting, she is raising her two daughters, ages 15 & 10, and two pups, ages 7 and 9 months. Please visit her blog at www.iamnotyourmom.com for more of her essays about life as a middle-aged professional with a family and many other interests and roles and deep thoughts.

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