As COVID-19 forced employees to work remotely, many teams invested in video conferencing services to create an in-person experience from far away. Company subscriptions for Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams skyrocketed while employees bought “Zoom shirts” so they could look professional—from the waist up. However, the rise of video calling has worn out some employees, and it’s been especially hard on team members who find themselves on video calls for 6+ hours each day. There has to be an easier way to communicate—or at least alternatives to limit video time. If you’re looking for some fresh ideas to help break up the redundancy of daily video calls, consider the alternatives below. Go ‘Cameras Off’ Before the pandemic, people had conference calls by phone, where they would dial in and only do screen shares when they needed to display information and walk other people through a slide deck. However, some businesses and teams continue to insist on video calls, draining remote workers who try to navigate this technology and the pressure of needing to be “on” throughout the duration of a call. Video cameras can create anxiety for even the most confident employees. Do you stare into the camera or on the screen? Why do you feel like you are being watched? Is there silence after my pitch because they hate the idea or because everyone is frozen or muted? Consider holding conference calls from time-to-time with cameras off to see if you notice more attentiveness or improved tone from your employees. You may be surprised to see some employees exude more confidence without the added stress of being watched. Create More Detailed Agendas If you do want to keep your hour-long meetings in place, consider improving your agendas and enforcing the time units you assign them. For example, if you assign 15 minutes to a discussion about the budget, stick to that allotted time and then move on to the next item. You can even schedule the times out in the meeting when they will be addressed. If you feel like you can’t close the loop on a discussion within the scheduled time, consider tabling that topic for another call with the people who are directly related to it. Many times, video calls without agendas can go off on many tangents that leave team members listening to discussions irrelevant to their work—wasting their time and attention. Additionally, with detailed agendas, people can jump on and off a call as needed. An employee can leave after the first 10 minutes if everything that concerns them is covered. Another team member can jump on at the 30-minute mark when a topic they need to discuss starts. The goal of this process is to free up time and keep people off meetings or discussions that are not important to their work. According to a report shared by the Harvard Business Review, 65% of senior managers said meetings keep them from completing their work, while 71% say meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Better agendas can help this. Opt for Shorter Meetings Meeting length keeps creeping up, with the average meeting time increasing 10% in the past 15 years and most meetings having a length of 31 to 60 minutes. Your meeting will get longer when you add more agenda items and invite more people to participate—leading to more opinions and time spent discussing issues. If you want to give people their time back, shorten your meetings. Instead of creating an hour-long discussion, create 4 15-minute quick reviews. Limit who is invited to each call. This way, a few team members can pop on for a quick call and then return to work away from Zoom. Avoid Setting Up ‘Regular Check-Ins’ When teams start a new project, they often create checks and balances to make sure everyone is on the same page and that the milestones are being met accordingly. This process—especially during lockdowns—involved weekly meetings to discuss the project and other tasks associated with it. While staying updated and helping move projects forward are important, they don’t always require meetings. Instead, consider leaning on collaborative tools and project management solutions like Trello or Monday to help track and update the progress of projects, tasks, and other milestone-oriented business processes. Accountability is an important part of operating remotely, and using tools like these can help you hold team members accountable without investing your or their time on video calls. If team members need video meetings to help move a project forward, then it’s certainly valuable. But if you can find other, more efficient ways to manage projects, it can increase productivity and reduce the number of weekly calls on your schedule. Yes, That Meeting Could Have Been an Email or Instant Message While digital communication has advanced significantly over the past few decades, there is still room for improvement. This often leads people to move away from email or chat scenarios and into meetings. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. The next time someone suggests setting up a “clarification meeting,” consider your options. First, you can pick up the phone right then for a 5-minute chat instead of a 15- or 30-minute Zoom call sometime in the future. You can also gently push back against a meeting and try to clarify your issues via email or virtual messenger. It is natural to want to speak to people face-to-face when there is an issue, but try to break the habit of scheduling meetings and instead look for faster alternatives. Each Company Has Its Own Video Call Dependencies As you look for alternatives to video calls within your organization, consider why your team spends so much time in meetings all day. Are your meetings too long? Do you create too many check-ins? Once you address the problem, you can move forward with alternative solutions that align best with the needs of your business.