Mary Olson-Menzel is the founder and CEO of MVP Executive Development and co-founder of Spark Insight Coaching.
In the corporate world, meetings are standard practice. However, video meetings are a different proposition entirely. While meetings using Zoom and Microsoft Teams are an effective way to connect virtually with clients and colleagues, back-to-back video meetings can be taxing on your eyes, your ability to focus and your energy overall.
I know from personal experience that by the end of a day packed with video meetings, I feel worn out in a way that’s different from a day of in-person meetings. Looking at screens reduces how often we blink which can dry out our eyes. In addition to that, we tend not to move enough when the camera is on, so our bodies stiffen up. And hours on end of paying attention and being on fatigues our minds, too. It’s not your imagination: back-to-back Zooms literally are a full mind and body drain.
With many people still working remotely full-time or on a hybrid schedule, virtual meetings are here to stay. So, what are the alternatives for busy communications executives who need to connect with colleagues, clients and partners? Here are some recommendations that you can implement today.
Every so often, one of my coaching clients will request a regular phone call instead of a Zoom. When that happens, I gladly oblige because it enables us to walk away from the screen and connect in a different way.
It’s fascinating what happens when you are focused only on one’s voice and listening to what they are saying instead of what they are wearing, what their background is, or even what you look like on camera. I find that when we speak on the phone, my clients become more focused, introspective and thoughtful.
Recently, a client had a huge breakthrough while we both were sitting outdoors versus inside our offices. He had been struggling with a decision that would affect his career for months. While we were walking and talking the answers started to flow out of him and I encouraged him to keep the train of thought going as he walked. More self-awareness and wisdom kept coming to him and by the end of the call, he was completely at peace with his decision. Don’t underestimate the power of a phone call to literally change the conversation.
Breaks are your best friend
In my coaching practice, I’ve always advised my clients to schedule breaks. Busy executives are notorious for cramming as much as possible into every day and rarely schedule time to eat, take a bio break or just take a brief stroll to get some fresh air. The imperative to take screen breaks is stronger than ever given the demands of the virtual workspace.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
- Set an alarm for yourself to take a real break. Get up, stretch, hydrate and if you can, head outdoors and take a quick walk.
- Every hour, rest your eyes, take some deep breaths and try to clear your mind for a moment.
- If you can take some calls outside, do it! If you can make it a walking meeting or call, even better.
- If you have a pet, step away from your screen, look into their eyes and give them some love. This can calm your nervous system — and theirs, too.
Ironically, you can use technology to help give yourself a break from technology, too!
There is an array of apps to help you do this. All of these are free:
- Awareness (Mac, Windows)
- Healthier: Break Reminder (Mac)
- Time Out (Mac)
- Big Stretch Reminder (Windows)
While technology allows us to do things that our grandparents never imagined, like connect with people across the world and access centuries of data within seconds, we need to achieve a healthy balance in our workdays. There is a big, beautiful world waiting just beyond our computer screens and we need to make time to experience it. This is your reminder to step away from the screen and try some alternative ways to work, engage, problem-solve and recharge. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.