I don’t know how many people remember the car ad from a few years ago where an adorable little tyke watching a sleek car drive into the distance whispers with awe “zoom, zoom.” I think of the kid a lot as I log into yet another Zoom meeting and imagine our teams zooming along the Internet highway.
Recently I facilitated a two-hour session on line and the next day I got a note from one of the participants who thanked me for including a ten minute break in the session. It was the first time they had attended an online session with a break built-in. I was shocked. I asked a few of my friends and several confirmed it had been their experience too with some meetings.
Now we are almost a year away from the anniversary of the WHO calling the pandemic. I don’t know about you, but even when we had face-to-face meetings, we had breaks to refresh, refill beverage containers, or get a snack.
Online meetings aren’t any different, even if you are wearing pyjama bottoms or leggings for most of them. Here are some ideas on how to make your next meeting more energetic and less draining:
Think about your meeting format — Does it have to be an online video call? If there’s only one person and it’s someone you see regularly, consider picking up the phone instead. You’d be surprised how much shorter telephone chats can be compared to online video calls. You can always take your call standing up too. Consider using chat, texts, emails or direct messages to focus your conversation. Having to type or dictate can also make meetings brief.
Consider how long your video session should be — If your meeting is an update on project activities, consider a walk and talk if people are able to do do so and it’s not chucking down with rain or snow. Assign each person five minutes to focus their update. If you can’t get outside to walk, have everyone stand for the meeting if they are able. Heaven knows we sit enough through the day. There’s an added benefit: meetings where people stand are shorter by 25% according to Forbes. Just because you are online doesn’t mean you have to sit for the whole of it.
Turn the camera off — Last month I started work with a new group and we don’t use our cameras at all when we have our meetings. It’s been quite freeing as no one knows if I am standing, stretching, or lying on the floor with my foam roller.
Build in different kinds of breaks — If your meeting will go for an hour, build in a stretch break at the 30 minute mark. If you are planning a working session between two and three hours, build in a five minute break for every hour online, and make the break at the halfway point at least ten minutes and up to 20 (depending on how many time zones you are working with).
Breaks can be anything you like. Most people want to refresh their coffee, tea or water; grab a snack; or have a bathroom break. I sometimes play a song for the break; that way, people know when the music stops, it is time to come back to work.
I like including a specific activity break because it reminds people that they need to move in a conscious way and not just to fetch something. A group activity can bring people together by boosting energy and shifting gears from one agenda item to another. Here are some things you can try:
- Chair yoga (doesn’t require standing). This video (Chair Yoga with Adriene) is an especially nice one to do and at six minutes is a good length for a mid-session break.
- Shake it out (can be done standing or sitting). Have participants turn their camera off. Starting with your right arm, tell people to shake it out five times, then move to the left arm and do the same. Repeat with each leg. Then repeat each cycle, counting down from four to one and picking up the pace with each number.
- Play a happy bouncy song and ask people to move in whatever way they like to the music (again with cameras off). This is one of my favourites.
Finally, think about blocking out parts of your week as meeting free zones. Or limit yourself to only one or two online meetings a day if you can. Look at your energy levels and your productivity. If you can’t avoid online meetings, make sure the agenda includes breaks including one using movement. What are ways you are incorporating activity in your online meetings?
MarthaFitat55 lives and works in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.