Tips to squeeze breaks into your day of virtual meetings
Katie Grosteffon 8/4/20
Working from home has many office workers feeling fatigued from a nearly endless stream of virtual meetings. Even if you’re back in the office, many people are still meeting online due to social distancing. Some days, I feel like I don’t have time to eat lunch or even use the restroom! Taking breaks is important for your physical and mental health, but it can be hard to do when you’re constantly in a meeting.
Tips for virtual meeting fatigue
To avoid back-to-back meetings, schedule slightly shorter meetings, for 25 minutes instead of 30, or 50 minutes instead of an hour. Some calendar programs have settings to do this automatically. Then you’ll have a 5- to 10-minute gap to run to the restroom or grab a snack from the kitchen. Pro tip: schedule meetings to start 5 to 10 minutes after the hour, instead of ending 5 to 10 minutes before, because it’s easy to let a meeting run over the scheduled time.
Block recurring time on your calendar for lunch and other breaks and avoid accepting meetings during those times. Set them as “out-of-office”; some calendar programs will automatically decline meeting invites sent for those times.
If you aren’t presenting your screen during a meeting, get up! Don’t feel stuck in your chair. Use a wireless headset or an app on your phone so you can stand or walk while talking. If you’re listening to a presentation, turn on your laptop speaker and do some stretches in your office (but maybe turn off your camera!).
Be honest with your co-workers and your boss when you need a breather. If someone squeezes a meeting into the last 30-minute opening on your calendar, ask if it can wait. If a meeting feels like it’s winding down, but people are staying on the line to chat, go ahead and duck out. Say something like, “If we don’t have anything more to discuss, I’m going to take 5 minutes for myself before my next meeting.” Your co-workers might even be thankful and do the same.
Above all, cut yourself and your co-workers some slack! Working from home presents many challenges. Depending on your situation, some of these tips may work better for you than others; do what you need to do to maintain your physical and mental health during this difficult time.