It has been called different things over the past year. “Pandemic fatigue,” “mental fog,” “work/life blur,” and “COVID burnout” …
All these terms have applied to many different professionals around the world that have experienced the same symptoms because of working during the pandemic. Some of these include feeling demotivated, experiencing increased cynicism and emotional exhaustion, being unable to focus, and becoming less effective at job duties. However, the one we would like to focus on in this article is meeting fatigue, and more specifically, Zoom meeting fatigue. According to a recent Forbes article, as we all ease into more permanent remote habits, “we should seize this as a chance to cut the fat, stop managers from micromanaging, and empower employees to self-regulate.”
4 Steps to Overcome Meeting Fatigue
According to Forbes, there is one important way that financial leaders can help their teams overcome meeting fatigue: rely less on meetings and more on data. We already know that automating your AP workflow has many benefits, but one of the biggest benefits is enhanced visibility into finances through easier access to financial data. All CFO’s, Controllers, and AP Managers dream about total visibility. They want to be able to see where the money gets stalled or lost, where the bottlenecks are, and where the time drains happen. Easy access to financial data allows leaders to not just know where problems happened after the fact, but where they are about to happen.
Since we all know that APIA is the best way for leaders to get access to more financial data, we will share 4 ways you can utilize the power of data to rely less on meetings to help your teams battle meeting fatigue.
1. Do not Use Meeting Time to Review Employee Productivity
Don’t spend meeting time having employees discuss how they spend their time or how productive they are being. As Forbes points out, “Data gives a more in-depth look at employees’ productivity, objectively telling you most of what you need to know about their progress, quality, and output.” Analytics platforms and project management tools can document employee performance in real-time and automate reporting rather than relying on (subjective) productivity self-reports shared in meetings. Managers can turn to data around priority metrics (e.g., number of invoices processed, which invoices are stalled in the workflow with a certain employee) to review team or individual productivity without scheduling meetings about it.
2. Streamline Internal Communication
You don’t need as many meetings as you think you do. Forbes recommends condensing necessary information and delivering it only to the people who need to hear it. “Reducing the number of meetings starts with being economical about the people you include in your processes.” Meetings can be places where people review important data, learn about what their coworkers are doing, and broaden their business expertise, but you need to limit who is attending your meetings to achieve maximum efficiency and not waste people’s time. Research shows that meetings with 5-9 people in attendance are most productive. And Forbes also warns “that daily stand-ups and one-to-ones can quickly become disruptive for everyone involved, especially if the narrative for these meetings isn’t based on data.”
Only schedule necessary meetings, only invite those employees that are mission-critical, and always send out a concise meeting agenda in advance. Appoint someone as the scribe to create a shared in-meeting document for people to collaborate on.
3. Give Employees More Independence
Your employees want and deserve to be trusted. Excessive meetings and check-ins take away their feelings of autonomy and give them the impression that you do not trust them. But Forbes points out that “teams that are given more freedom will, in turn, be less dependent on their leadership, giving them space to develop their own creativity, resilience, and problem-solving skills.” Rather than scheduling unnecessary meetings, give that time to your employees to engage in more educational opportunities. “Using performance data, you can easily identify who needs assistance in what areas and offer them corresponding training materials.” But using data to track performance need not foster a feeling of fear or animosity between manager and employee. When you present data showing areas of needed improvement, tell your employees that your intention is to help them and offer them extra support. Use those discussions to build a stronger informal relationship with your team.
4. Prioritize Employee Well-Being
Managers need to take a more active role in employee well-being, but they can’t do so when spending a disproportionate amount of time in meetings. Streamlining communication and relying more heavily on data helps in two ways. First, it reduces anxiety or stress relating to too many meetings. Second, according to Forbes, it “allows managers to delve into data around employee performance and flag any signs that an employee is unwell, stacking up too many hours, or is struggling to maintain their productivity levels.” If you discover through the data or through informal means that an employee’s well-being is suffering, you can put together a personalized action plan and determine when a one-on-one meeting is needed.