We all get overwhelmed at work from time to time, but if you find yourself truly dreading work meetings and struggling to stay focused, that may be a sign that something else is going on. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” arising from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Meeting burnout has been on the rise since the pandemic required many people to shift to remote work — though it can occur as a result of in-person meetings, too. Here’s how to recognize the signs of meeting burnout in yourself or your team, and what you can do about it.
What Is Meeting Burnout?
Burnout is a type of stress associated with prolonged periods of work without sufficient rest or downtime. Employees who are burned out at work may feel exhausted, drained, or overwhelmed by their usual daily responsibilities. They may struggle to focus, stay motivated, and maintain their morning routine or their productivity levels throughout the day.
According to the WHO, the three dimensions of burnout are:
- “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.”
It’s not a formal medical condition but a mental health syndrome that can lead to medical conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Meeting burnout is just one type of burnout that your team members may experience. It’s often associated with “Zoom fatigue,” or too many virtual meetings, but it can also be caused by too many in-person meetings, especially in a high-pressure work environment.
3 Signs of Meeting Burnout
The first step to addressing meeting burnout is to identify it. It’s important to be on the lookout for signs of burnout on your team so you can make changes to your meeting schedule or give them the resources they need to improve their well-being.
Here are three signs of employee burnout caused by too many meetings:
1. Feeling Overwhelmed at Work
First, do you or your employees exhibit signs of chronic stress or fatigue at work? This could look like exhaustion, irritability, or simply an inability to stay focused at work. If you dread going to meetings more than usual, or leave them feeling grumpy or frustrated at your co-workers, then you may be experiencing meeting burnout.
Other symptoms may not show up until the end of the workday, such as muscle tension or difficulty sleeping. Too many video calls can result in headaches and eye strain, but even face-to-face meetings can lead to exhaustion and fatigue.
2. Poor Attendance or Low Participation Levels
Have any members of your team been missing more meetings than usual? Or are they showing up to video meetings but declining to participate in team-building activities or decision-making? Employee engagement is one of the biggest challenges of remote work. New employees in particular may have a hard time getting to know their co-workers and acclimating to your team meeting culture.
When team members start arriving late, leaving early, or keeping their video turned off during Zoom meetings, that may be a sign they aren’t really checked in.
3. Failure to Follow Through
Another sign of meeting burnout is that meeting participants aren’t following through on their follow-up commitments or action items. Maybe you’re trying to cram too much into the meeting agenda, or maybe they’re spending so much of the workday in back-to-back meetings that they don’t have any time left to get things done.
If productivity levels have declined in spite of frequent meetings or video conferences, that may be a sign that you’re overwhelming your team with too many of them.
6 Ways to Tackle Meeting Burnout
Meeting burnout doesn’t have to be a long-term problem. It’s easy to remedy by cutting down on the number of meetings you have, having better online meetings, and taking better meeting notes. Here are six easy ways to tackle meeting burnout:
1. Have Fewer Meetings
Meetings are important for fostering teamwork and camaraderie, but not every topic requires a real-time conversation. When possible, have a discussion in your Slack channel or in a one-on-one video chat instead of scheduling a meeting.
For discussions that can’t be an email or a Slack conversation, stick to the meeting agenda and make every minute count. For scrum meetings and other recurring meetings, keep them short and to the point so participants don’t lose interest and start multitasking on something else.
When you have too many meetings, each individual meeting feels less urgent. By reserving your meeting times for major discussions, participants will know that they’re important and make the effort to be present and attentive.
2. Create an Effective Agenda
Meeting agendas aren’t just for board meetings and other formal meetings. Having an agenda for every meeting allows participants to plan ahead. Use Anchor AI’s QuickPrep feature to create an agenda automatically based on the previous meeting’s notes and what you’ve accomplished since then.
Simply knowing what’s on the agenda and when they might be called on to speak can make meetings feel more inviting and less overwhelming.
Most importantly, agendas can empower employees to take the initiative and submit their own agenda items or take turns facilitating the meeting. Consider scheduling a team check-in at the beginning of each meeting so participants can openly discuss any workplace challenges or mental health issues they’re facing.
3. Use a Note-Taking Tool
Taking notes is a necessity for many types of meetings, especially those that require formal meeting minutes. Usually, this is a designated team member’s responsibility, but the pressure of taking notes can be an additional factor contributing to meeting burnout.
When you use an automated note-taking tool like Anchor AI, no one has to take notes by hand, and everyone on your team is free to fully participate in the meeting.
Plus, you can use Anchor AI to generate a complete transcript or a meeting summary so that even those who weren’t present at the meeting can catch up on what happened.
4. Turn Off the Video
One of the reasons why Zoom calls can be especially exhausting for team members is the pressure to read nonverbal cues and maintain eye contact. Participants may find it hard to relax with the camera on, or they may feel uncomfortable knowing that their home office area is on display.
Giving participants permission to turn off their video, at least some of the time, can reduce meeting burnout. Attendees can feel free to eat lunch or move around their home office while video conferencing without feeling judged or scrutinized.
Plus, sitting at a desk all day can contribute to neck tension and eye strain, leading to physical meeting burnout. Being able to take a conference call outside or while out on a walk can cut down on screen time and make for a welcome change of pace.
5. Make Meetings Fun
Sometimes, we can try so hard to make our meetings productive that we forget to leave time for team-building and socializing. Icebreakers, games, and other fun team meeting ideas can help keep your team engaged and make meetings feel less stressful.
If you have a hybrid work model, alternate between face-to-face and virtual meetings, and host a retreat or team-building activity once or twice a year.
Recognize major achievements with employee recognition awards, and don’t make every meeting about upcoming deadlines and key performance indicators.
6. Create Clear Action Items
Finally, encourage follow-through by identifying action items during each meeting and sending them out after the meeting, along with the meeting notes or a meeting summary. That way, participants will remember what they’ve agreed to do and be more likely to follow-up on time.
When you use Anchor AI to take notes, it can capture actionable items automatically and add them to your built in action item tracker. Anchor AI will even assign a due date based on what was discussed in the meeting.
By keeping the focus on what matters and tracking everything in a central location, employees can stay on top of their to-do list and ask for help if they need it.
Fight Meeting Burnout With Anchor AI
Meeting burnout is a feeling of chronic stress associated with too many meetings and not enough downtime. Employees experiencing burnout may feel angry, unmotivated, and unable to keep up with their usual work routine. Running better meetings — and having fewer of them — can go a long way toward fighting meeting burnout.
Anchor AI can help you run better team meetings with our automated note-taking tool and action item tracker. Not only will you spend less time taking notes, but you’ll end your meetings with less stress and having established a clear path forward.
Try out Anchor AI for free, and get more out of meetings today!