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What is Meeting Burnout and How Can You Prevent It?

In the modern work environment, where meetings can often dominate our schedules, the phenomenon of meeting burnout has emerged as a significant concern. This type of burnout not only affects our personal well-being but also hampers organizational productivity. As we find ourselves trapped in a cycle of back-to-back meetings, it becomes crucial to understand and address meeting burnout for the sake of our mental health and professional efficiency.

Recognizing the Signs of Meeting Burnout

Physical Symptoms

Meeting burnout can take a toll on your body, manifesting in several physical symptoms that serve as warning signs.

  • Persistent Fatigue: This isn't just the regular tiredness you feel after a long day; it's a deep-seated sense of exhaustion that doesn't go away with rest. It's as if your energy reserves are perpetually depleted, making even the thought of attending another meeting daunting.
  • Headaches: The stress and tension from constant meetings can lead to frequent headaches. These aren't necessarily tied to any specific stressor but are more a result of the cumulative effect of prolonged mental strain.
  • Muscle Tension: Sitting through back-to-back meetings, especially when they're not engaging or particularly stressful, can lead to muscle stiffness and tension. This is often felt in the neck, shoulders, and back, areas where stress tends to accumulate.

Emotional Symptoms

The emotional impact of meeting burnout can deeply affect your mental health and overall well-being.

  • Feeling Overwhelmed: When the thought of attending yet another meeting fills you with anxiety or dread, it's a sign that you're emotionally burnt out. This feeling of being overwhelmed can make it hard to focus or find motivation for your work.
  • Stress: Continuous stress from meeting demands can lead to a chronic state of tension and anxiety. This isn't just about being busy; it's a deeper sense of being unable to cope with the demands placed on you.
  • Disengagement: A common emotional symptom of burnout is disengaging from work. You might find yourself caring less about the outcomes of meetings or projects, leading to a decrease in job satisfaction and engagement.
  • Dread of Upcoming Meetings: If the mere thought of upcoming meetings fills you with anxiety or a sense of doom, it's a clear indicator of emotional burnout. This dread can make it difficult to concentrate on tasks at hand, affecting productivity and well-being.

Behavioural Symptoms

Behaviour changes are often the most noticeable signs of meeting burnout, affecting how you interact with your work and colleagues.

  • Decreased Participation in Meetings: If you find yourself participating less in meetings, either by speaking up less or mentally checking out, it's a sign that you're experiencing burnout.
  • Increased Cynicism About Work: Meeting burnout can lead to a negative outlook on work. You might find yourself more cynical about the value of meetings, the intentions of colleagues, or the direction of projects.
  • Actively Avoiding Meetings: When the thought of attending another meeting becomes so unbearable that you start to dodge them, either by calling in sick, making up excuses or simply not showing up, it's a clear behavioural symptom of burnout.


Quick Checklist of Symptoms for Self-Assessment:

This concise guide aims to provide individuals with an easily accessible way to self-evaluate their mental health status.

  1. "Do you feel fatigued or drained after attending meetings?"
  2. "Are you experiencing headaches or muscle tension following your meetings?"
  3. "Do you feel overwhelmed or stressed by your current meeting schedule?"
  4. "Have you found yourself disengaging or feeling cynical about your work recently?"
  5. "Are you avoiding meetings or participating less than you used to?"


Implementing Practical Solutions

Setting Clear Agendas

A clear agenda is the backbone of an effective meeting. It outlines what needs to be discussed and achieved, helping to keep the meeting on track and focused.

  • Preparation: With an agenda, participants can prepare in advance, which leads to more productive discussions.
  • Be realistic with time: don't book a 15-minute timeslot at 4:45 pm when you know that the discussion is going to take an hour. Be respectful of everyone's time and book a realistic amount.
  • Relevance: It ensures that discussions remain relevant to the meeting's objectives, reducing the likelihood of the conversation veering off course.
  • Engagement: Knowing the purpose and structure beforehand increases participants' engagement as they understand how their contributions fit into the bigger picture.

Invite the Right Participants

The success of a meeting significantly hinges on having the right people in the room (or virtual room).

  • Be selective with meeting invitees: only invite participants who need to be there. If someone isn't directly involved in a project or doesn't have something to contribute, they probably don't need to be there.

Control the flow of Conversation

It's easy for meetings to snowball off track and end up in a hodge-podge mess of crosstalk. All attendees, and especially the host/leader, should be way to keep the conversation flowing smoothly by ensuring:

  • One person at a time: as brilliant as humans are, we have a hard time listening to two speakers at once. Keep communication concise and ensure only one person speaks at a time.
  • Put a stop to interruptions: I'm sure you've got that one person in your team who takes over and talks over everyone. Well, it's time for them to pipe down while other people are contributing. Cut off any interruptions and make sure other attendees can get their thoughts and ideas across.

Embracing Asynchronous Communication

Asynchronous communication does not require participants to be present at the same time, offering flexibility in how and when information is consumed and responded to. In addition to live meetings, your team should leverage other communication to reduce the time spent in meetings. This approach has several benefits:

  • Flexibility: Employees can manage their time more effectively, engaging with the content when they are most focused and productive.
  • Streamlined Information Sharing: Asynchronous tools like live message apps (Slack or Microsoft Teams), emails, shared documents, and project management platforms streamline the process of sharing information without the need to gather everyone for a meeting. This is particularly useful for updates or decisions that do not necessitate immediate discussion.
  • Reduced Meeting Frequency: Utilizing asynchronous communication for appropriate tasks allows organizations to significantly lower the necessity for meetings, thereby alleviating meeting fatigue.

Implement No-Meeting Hours/Days

No-meeting days or timeslots have become increasingly popular in recent years. With more connectivity than ever before, thanks in part to digital communication tools like video calls and live messaging apps, staff need uninterrupted time to focus. Implementing no-meeting blocks not only works to reduce meeting burnout but also delivers:

  • Focussed work time: Employees can work deeply without interruptions, improving efficiency.
  • Less Fatigue: Breaks from meetings keep energy levels high.
  • Improved Well-being: Less stress from constant meetings promotes a healthier balance.
  • Better Time Management: Encourages effective scheduling of work.
  • Increased Autonomy: Gives employees control over their schedules, enhancing satisfaction.

Ensure Your Meetings are Inclusive

Inclusive meetings are those where all participants feel like they have the opportunity and confidence to be seen and heard. Without an inclusive meeting experience, employees may not feel comfortable contributing. But there are a few simple ways to make meetings inclusive:

  • Control the flow of conversation: Ensure only one person at a time is speaking and put a stop to interruptions
  • Respect everyone's time: Book meetings in advance, provide an agenda, ensure that you're realistic with how much time you need, and only invite participants who need to be there.
  • Ensure everyone is comfortable and welcome: everyone should have a comfortable place to sit, can see and hear everyone in the room and remotely
  • Involve everyone:
  • Ensure that everyone can be seen and heard: ensure your video and audio technology is working properly, ensure any whiteboard can be properly shared with remote attendees, and don't mute your mic for in-room discussions that exclude remote participants.

For more details on creating inclusive video meetings, check out this article.


Finding Balance in the Modern Workplace

Meeting burnout has become an all-too-common ailment in today's work environment. However, by recognizing the signs, understanding its causes, and implementing practical solutions, we can mitigate its effects.

If you think that your meeting rooms in your office could use a technology upgrade to make them more inclusive and accessible, get in touch with us to learn more about Teams Rooms.