Identifying the signs of virtual meeting fatigue in ourselves can be as critical as understanding its causes, explains Joan Burge

Over the last quarter century, we’ve witnessed an unprecedented acceleration in technological advancement that has fundamentally reshaped how we conduct business, especially in the realm of communication. One significant byproduct of this technological evolution is the exponential rise in virtual meetings.

Zoom has become a common nomenclature in almost every industry in the world. In our post-pandemic workplaces, virtual meetings have evolved from a temporary solution to a core element of day-to-day operations for numerous businesses across the globe. The rapid transition we witnessed, driven by health and safety necessities, saw many establishments embrace virtual platforms as their main meeting avenue. The problem? This shift was often devoid of detailed planning or strategic execution.

While there are many advantages to virtual meetings, they also present unique challenges that must be addressed to avoid burnout and sustain productivity. Executive and administrative Assistants, in particular, find themselves at the epicenter of this change. Many report dedicating several hours each day to ensure seamless communication.

One of the most pervasive issues that has emerged alongside the increase in virtual meetings is known as “virtual meeting fatigue.” This phenomenon refers to the overwhelming tiredness, anxiety, or burnout individuals may experience due to excessive amounts of time spent in online meetings. Administrative professionals, who play a crucial role in the scheduling, coordination, and conduction of these meetings, are particularly impacted by this modern phenomenon. Due to their involvement in virtually every aspect of meeting management – often across various time zones – they not only participate in but also ensure the smooth operation of these digital gatherings.

This relentless pace, compounded by the need to stay hyper-focused during online interactions, can lead to a significant strain on their mental and emotional well-being. This evolution in our industry underscores the need for the adoption of new skills to thrive in the modern digital workplace.

Understanding the Causes of Virtual Meeting Fatigue

Virtual meeting fatigue stems from a confluence of factors, each contributing to the sense of exhaustion many experience. Prolonged periods of screen time are a primary culprit, straining the eyes and requiring constant mental engagement that can be draining. The absence of physical movement contributes significantly as well. Sitting in one place without the natural breaks that come with in-person meetings affects both physical and mental health.

The cognitive load is also significantly higher in virtual settings. Participants must work harder to process non-verbal cues like tone and facial expressions, often leading to lots of interruptions, misunderstandings, or misinterpretations. The lack of a distinct work-life boundary in remote work scenarios exacerbates this fatigue, blurring the lines between personal downtime and professional obligations.

Let’s face it: The novelty of virtual meetings has worn off, and what was once a new and exciting experience has become routine, contributing to a sense of monotony and exhaustion. Addressing these challenges is fundamental to enhancing productivity and well-being for the administrative community in the digital workplace.

Are You Experiencing Virtual Meeting Fatigue?

Identifying the signs of virtual meeting fatigue in ourselves can be as critical as understanding its causes. If you find yourself dreading the sound of a meeting notification, feeling mentally drained after a day filled with online discussions, or struggling to maintain focus during virtual interactions, you might be experiencing this modern workplace challenge. This self-assessment is designed to help you gauge whether you’re experiencing virtual meeting fatigue and offer insight into how it may be impacting your productivity and well-being.

Frequency of virtual meetings

How often do you find yourself in virtual meetings throughout the day?

[A] Almost constantly, with little to no break in between

[B] Several times a day but with adequate breaks

[C] Once a day or less

Reaction to notifications

How do you feel when you hear or see a notification for an upcoming virtual meeting?

[A] An immediate sense of dread or frustration

[B] Indifferent, it’s just another part of my day

[C] Slightly excited or at least neutral

Energy levels post-meetings

How do you generally feel after participating in a string of virtual meetings?

[A] Mentally drained and exhausted

[B] A bit tired, but nothing a short break won’t fix

[C] Energized or no different than I felt before

Focus during meetings

How often do you struggle to maintain focus during virtual meetings?

[A] Frequently, I find my mind wandering or getting easily distracted

[B] Occasionally, it depends on the meeting’s content and participants

[C] Rarely, I’m usually fully engaged

Work-life balance

Do you feel that virtual meetings are blurring the lines between your personal and professional life?

[A] Yes, I often find myself working outside of normal hours due to meetings

[B] Sometimes, but I try to maintain clear boundaries

[C] No, I keep my professional and personal time distinct


A majority of “A” responses likely indicate significant fatigue, suggesting a need for strategies to manage or reduce it. Diverse answers or a majority of “B” responses could mean you’re experiencing fatigue intermittently, and selecting mostly “C”s likely indicates you’re managing well under the circumstances.

It’s crucial to remember that experiencing virtual meeting fatigue does not reflect your professional capabilities or dedication. Instead, it highlights the need for more sustainable practices in our digital work environments. Recognizing the signs early on can empower you to take proactive steps toward mitigating fatigue, reclaiming your enthusiasm and productivity, and creating a healthier, more balanced approach to virtual communication.

Strategies to Combat Virtual Meeting Fatigue

While virtual meetings have become an integral part of our professional landscape, it’s important to recognize that falling victim to virtual meeting fatigue is not inevitable. With conscious efforts and strategic adjustments, you can significantly reduce the strain these meetings place on your mental and physical well-being. This practice is critical for Assistants.

Here are four strategies to help you combat virtual meeting fatigue:

1. Implement a “no meeting” block in your schedule

Dedicate specific times during your workweek as “meeting-free zones.” This could mean setting aside a couple of hours each day or even one full day a week where no meetings can be scheduled. Use this time to focus on deep work or simply take a break and recharge. This strategy not only cuts down on the number of meetings but also gives you uninterrupted time for productivity, ultimately reducing the fatigue that comes from back-to-back virtual meetings.

2. Promote active engagement and shorten meeting times

Encourage active participation by involving attendees in the discussion and incorporating interactive elements like polls when appropriate. This can help maintain engagement and energy levels. Additionally, challenge the default meeting length settings in your calendar app. Opt for shorter meetings – such as 25 or 50 minutes instead of the standard 30 or 60. This ensures that meetings remain concise and provides participants with valuable breaks to stretch, rest their eyes, or simply disconnect for a few moments before their next commitment.

3. Maintain good communication with your team

Don’t be afraid to communicate any struggles or concerns with your team. We are all facing this challenge together and can support each other through it. Your co-workers and executives are likely dealing with virtual meeting fatigue, too. Consider discussing alternative methods of communication or scheduling that may work better for you and your team. By being open and transparent about your needs, you can create a healthier virtual meeting culture for everyone.

4. Optimize your virtual meeting environment

Creating a comfortable and efficient workspace can significantly reduce the physical and mental fatigue associated with virtual meetings. This includes investing in ergonomic furniture, ensuring proper lighting to reduce eye strain, and using high-quality audio equipment to minimize the strain of listening intently. Take regular breaks during longer meetings to stand, stretch, or walk around. Whenever possible, switch to audio-only meetings or turn off your own video to give yourself a brief visual break.

Reclaiming Your Energy

By integrating these strategies into your routine, you can make virtual meetings more bearable and maintain your productivity and well-being. The key to combating virtual meeting fatigue lies in finding the right balance that works for you and continuously adapting your approach as your work environment evolves. As a member of the administrative community, your well-being should always be a priority. With conscious effort and adaptability, we can create a healthier and more sustainable approach to virtual communication. Together, we can overcome this challenge and thrive in the ever-evolving digital world.

Reclaiming energy transcends physical or mental rejuvenation. It’s about regaining control over your professional environment and personal well-being, setting a positive cycle in motion. For administrative professionals who juggle numerous tasks and manage high-stress levels, finding strategies to recharge is not just beneficial – it’s essential. By prioritizing energy management, Assistants exemplify self-leadership, inspiring others to follow suit. This cultivates a workplace culture that values and practices sustainable work habits, leading to long-term success and well-being for all involved.

Joan Burge is known as the pioneer of the administrative training industry. Joan is an accomplished author, professional speaker, corporate trainer, and coach. After working in the administrative profession for 20 years, Joan founded Office Dynamics ... (Read More)

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