All posts
6 tips to overcome meeting fatigue and make your teams more productive
Share this

6 tips to overcome meeting fatigue and make your teams more productive

Discover what meeting fatigue is, how it impacts your teams, and how to avoid it and improve productivity.

Table of Contents

Inefficient meetings are the number one obstacle to productivity, according to Microsoft's 2023 Work Trend Index Survey.* So it’s no surprise that companies like Shopify and Meta are empowering employees to cancel more meetings.** 

More leaders are following in their footsteps and adopting async-first policies—giving teams control over their calendars and time for meaningful focus work.*** 

We get it: It's easy to default to meetings for every single decision. But too many meetings can negatively impact employee output and wellbeing. That's why leaders of highly collaborative teams need to know when to schedule a meeting vs when async work is more productive. 

In this article, you'll learn what meeting fatigue is, its causes, and how it negatively impacts your teams and businesses. Then, you'll get tips on how to fight meeting fatigue and increase productivity, including how an async-first collaboration platform like Switchboard can help. 

Stay energized by taking back control of your calendar.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms save your work, so you can do more async—and move faster with fewer meetings.
Sign up free

What is meeting fatigue? 

Meeting fatigue, or "Zoom fatigue," is the feeling of exhaustion and decreased productivity that can come with having too many unproductive and unnecessary meetings. If your calendar looks like a losing game of tetris, you're likely missing out on deep, meaningful work. This can impact your ability to connect with your team and projects—and create stress and dissatisfaction at work. 

What causes meeting fatigue? 

Continuous or back-to-back meetings typically cause meeting fatigue and mental exhaustion. This is because context-switching between meetings, conversations, and tabs is a source of high stress. Microsoft affirms you need to take breaks between meetings to reset and offset any stress buildup. Otherwise, too many meetings can lead to burnout and a lack of engagement. In fact, 64 percent of employees rank meeting-related issues as the number one cause of fatigue.   

Below, we explore why that is and how meeting fatigue can negatively impact your team and business. 

The impacts of virtual meeting fatigue

From information overload and the inability to focus to the cognitive load of context switching, there are many ways meeting fatigue affects team performance. Let's dive in. 

  • Multitasking and context switching. When people aren't engaged in meetings, either due to boredom or overwhelm, they'll likely be distracted. Some 73 percent of employees do other work in meetings—meaning they're not fully engaged. This further exacerbates context switching toggling between tasks, apps, and notifications. 
  • Scheduling challenges. For people who aren’t in the same office, coordinating across time zones, departments, and personal schedules can be difficult and contribute to fatigue. Also, the absence of physical transitions between meeting rooms or locations can make it challenging for people to mentally switch between tasks. 
  • Information overload. The abundance of in-person or virtual meetings, combined with nonstop notifications, tasks, and messages, can lead to information overload. This can make it hard to know what's actually important: Everything feels urgent, regardless of whether it is or not. 
  • Eye strain and physical discomfort. Prolonged exposure to screens during virtual meetings can lead to eye strain, headaches, and physical discomfort. Research shows that this type of fatigue can also affect people's brain waves and heart rates—and reveal signs of inattention and depression. 
  • Cognitive load of too many meetings. When you're in constant meetings, it can be easier for the brain to enter a state of overwhelm. Excessive information and processing demands take a toll known as cognitive overload. Also, in virtual meetings, participants often need to focus more on non-verbal cues, facial expressions, and verbal communication to compensate for the lack of physical ones. 

How to fight meeting fatigue and boost productivity 

There are many reasons why meetings become ineffective. Often, it's because they're either too long, too frequent, or not interactive enough. One thing's for certain, though, you don't want your team showing up tired to your meetings. This can sabotage your productivity before you've even started—and make your meetings that much more inefficient. 

So, here's what you can do to avoid unproductive meetings—and have everyone show up ready to do their best work. 

Come prepared 

To get the most out of your meetings, you need to make sure to share the meeting objectives and agenda with participants in advance. This gives everyone a chance to review the shared materials, ensuring they have a clear understanding of what they'll get out of–and should bring to–the meeting. 

"I make it a point to review previous meeting minutes to ensure that all action items have been addressed," says Tim Green, COO at TeamUp. "This not only keeps everyone accountable but also provides a sense of continuity and progress." 

Preparing for the meeting also makes it easier to spot opportunities to cancel bad meetings. If you notice there aren't enough agenda points or the objectives aren't clear, you can table the meeting until there are. Then, it’ll actually be valuable and move projects forward. If there’s no compelling reason to meet in person, you can share information via email or Slack instead.

Pro tip: Use Switchboard to share key meeting materials like the meeting agenda, objectives, and any files or documents you need—before, during, and after the meeting. This lets everyone get up to speed beforehand and come ready to work.  
Sticky notes and a document in a Switchboard room
Switchboard unifies all your people, files, and tools—and keeps everything organized by project.  Source: Switchboard

Collaborate async 

Sometimes, you need to come together face-to-face for brainstorming, decision-making, and team-building exercises. But other times, like one-way communication or tasks that don't require immediate attention, async working is the way to go. In fact, employees report that about 30 percent of meetings could be skipped, as long as they're kept in the loop.

Working on tasks and projects on your own time–without the pressure to respond instantly or jump into another meeting–lets you cut down on context switching and distractions. This can help you get back more time for meaningful focus work. When you do need to meet, async information sharing and preparation gives people more time to come up with valuable contributions and ideas. This makes the meetings you do have more productive. 

To keep everyone aligned, you need to encourage your team to share relevant information, updates, or insights ahead of time through collaboration platforms like Switchboard or shared documents on Drive, Notion, etc. This lets everyone come to the meeting with a baseline understanding, reducing the need for lengthy explanations or searching for files during the session. 

Here's a framework you can use for your async-first working environment: 

  • Share async—like docs, slides, or code
  • Review async—add comments or make video walkthroughs
  • Discuss and decide async or together—either converse in comments or meet to talk as a group

Avoid back-to-back meetings 

As mentioned, scheduling back-to-back meetings can lead to burnout and diminish the quality of your interactions. When talking about the cure to meeting fatigue, Wharton Psychologist and New York Times Bestselling author, Adam Grant says, "The antidotes are common sense but not common practice: fewer, shorter, more interactive online meetings." 

This means you need to avoid filling your calendar with meetings and get more control over your day. Here's how: 

  • Use calendar blocking techniques. Block out time specifically for breaks, lunch, and focused work. This helps to prevent others from booking meetings during these times and makes sure you have designated periods to rest or concentrate on individual tasks.
  • Prioritize and decline when necessary. Employees accept 83 percent of meeting invitations that are sent to them. This means you need to assess the importance and relevance of each meeting before accepting. Empower people to politely decline meetings that don't have a meeting agenda and clear objectives or where their contribution isn't crucial. 
  • Create meeting-free days. Designate certain days or blocks of time as meeting-free. This gives you uninterrupted periods to focus on deep work or other important tasks without distractions. 
  • Communicate availability. Use a shared calendar to set designated office hours where people can book meetings with you or share your out-of-office hours. Also, set status updates on Slack to let people know when you are and aren’t available.
  • Stick to meeting time limits. Make sure you start and stop your meeting on time so people feel like their time is valuable. This can also help give people time to de-stress after the meeting before context-switching to other tasks or discussions. 
  • Use interactive platforms. Switchboard lets you create an interactive project room where team members can drag, drop, and organize apps, docs, and notes, all in one place. This lets you easily present and learn from each other—and stay engaged and focused. 

Take frequent breaks 

Breaks, even short ones, are essential to give your brain time to recover from the stress of jumping from meeting to meeting. They're also important for ensuring engagement and focus, which is an integral part of collaborating without burnout

For example, before a sprint meeting with your product team, you might take a couple of minutes to get a snack, walk outside, do some stretching, or meditate. This gets easier if you follow step one and have everything prepared in advance, so you're not scrambling for the right documents five minutes before it starts. 

Taking frequent breaks lowers the chances of meeting fatigue and has positive effects on your wellbeing. So it's more likely you'll show up energized and ready to participate when it's time to get together, which can improve productivity and team dynamics. 

Here are some tips you can steal to take more breaks: 

  • Set break reminders. You can do this using tools like Pomodoro Timer or voice activated assistants to pull you out of work and stick to your break schedule. 
  • Lead by example. Encourage employees to take frequent breaks or even turn it into a team activity. Simply set up a Switchboard room dedicated to team-building, and get everyone adding photos of something they did, ate, or enjoyed during their breaks throughout the day or week. 

Avoid multitasking 

As mentioned, context switching can take a mental toll on employees, affecting morale and output. Toggling between tools, apps, and notifications can cost you up to four hours per week, not to mention the cost of tying people up in meetings

Here's what you can do to avoid multitasking and give yourself some downtime: 

  • Prioritize and batch tasks. Begin each day by identifying your most important tasks. Then, group similar tasks and handle them in one go. This can reduce the cognitive load of switching between different types of tasks.
  • Set realistic goals. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a given time frame. Avoid overloading your schedule, which can lead to the temptation to multitask.
  • Delegate when possible. Outsource tasks that others can handle, especially if they aren't critical to your primary responsibilities.
  • Keep everything in one place. If you're using Switchboard, you can share all the links, tools, documents, and media you need for your projects in one persistent room. Plus, Switchboard AI summarizes room activity and materials, so you can save time getting up to speed and creating summaries of action items to share with your team.
Switchboard AI command options
Ask Switchboard AI to help you research a topic, brainstorm ideas, or summarize materials and notes in your room—and save energy for more meaningful work.  Source: Switchboard

Use the right tools

To make the most of everyone's time and energy, you need to empower employees with the right tools—not overwhelm them with an inflated tech stack. 

Here are our top tools for meaningful collaboration:

  • Switchboard for sharing ideas, giving feedback, and making decisions
  • Asana for visual project management 
  • Notion for document collaboration
  • Mural for whiteboarding
  • Figma for design and prototyping
  • GitHub for collaborative software development
Pro tip: Switchboard's interactive canvas unites all your favorite tools in one place–and organizes them by project–so you can review work in context.
Sticky notes, PDFs, and Google Docs open in a Switchboard room
Switchboard brings visibility to projects and tools, making cross-functional collaboration a breeze. Source: Switchboard

Beat meeting fatigue: Cancel bad meetings

​Meetings are often essential to reach consensus, brainstorm, or build relationships with your team. But when they're poorly run and lack clear objectives they can turn into time wasters that negatively impact wellbeing and productivity. 

That’s why leading companies don't want their teams bogged down in meetings, and are taking creative steps to cancel more of them. Shopify, for example, suggests canceling all recurring meetings involving three or more people. 

It’s easy to default to meetings for every single decision, but too many can wear people down and get in the way of work. That's why you need to know when to meet, when to communicate async, and when to cancel the meeting altogether. This avoids meeting fatigue and makes your teams more productive. Beyond that, try coming prepared to meetings, avoiding back-to-back ones and multitasking, and taking frequent breaks. 

When you use tools like Switchboard, you can do more outside of meetings—or cancel them altogether and get on with work instead.  

Stay energized by taking back control of your calendar.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms save your work, so you can do more async—and move faster with fewer meetings.
Sign up free

Frequently asked questions about meeting fatigue

How to minimize Zoom fatigue? 

There are several ways you can minimize Zoom fatigue, and it starts with limiting the number of meetings and video calls you have. This is because, since the rise of remote work and the "new normal", it's easy to deplete your energy with constant on-screen distractions and video meetings. 

Instead of attending unnecessary meetings, use tools like Switchboard that let you create an async-first meeting culture and access everything you need to move projects forward without unnecessary team meetings. 

How to avoid meeting fatigue? 

To avoid meeting fatigue, you need to distinguish between productive meetings and those that are a waste of time, and then cancel the bad meetings.  Here's how to make sure meetings are productive and mitigate the causes of meeting fatigue:  

  • Come prepared 
  • Collaborate async 
  • Avoid back-to-back meetings
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Avoid multitasking
  • Use the right tools 

Stop, collaborate, and listen

Get product updates and Switchboard tips and tricks delivered right to your inbox.

You can unsubscribe at any time using the links at the bottom of the newsletter emails. More information is in our privacy policy.

You've been added to our newsletter full of tips and Switchboard updates.

You can unsubscribe at any time using the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Stay energized by taking back control of your calendar.

Switchboard’s persistent rooms save your work, so you can do more async—and move faster with fewer meetings.