Virtual Meetings Sans Screentime

Sponsored Article by Abby Ferri

The smell of Tiger Balm has faded, but my neck and shoulder are still pinched. My blue light glasses are on my face most of the day, as I go from my laptop, monitor, TV, Apple Watch, and iPhone screens constantly. Last night, my instagram and facebook feeds included friends who were sporting Hugaroos, weighted blankets, and compression socks asking for others’ thoughts on self care after a long week.

I too had a long week and couldn’t figure out why my neck, shoulders, eyes, and lower back hurt just a little more than usual. I wanted to relax and watch a movie with the family, but the light from the screen made my eyes want to explode. Then I realized I had 3 weeks worth of meetings in one week because of the “magic” of virtual meetings “thanks” to Zoom, Webex, Teams, GoToMeeting, and Meets. No exaggeration, I had multiple meetings on each of those platforms this week – you probably did too.

My husband is a teacher, and I realized I have FAILED him by not providing an ergonomic assessment of his sit-only workstation. This is only after he noted severe pain in his right wrist and shoulder – easy to make the conclusion on that one… Don’t worry, I ordered this sit-stand desk before sitting down (oops) to write this blog post. I have the same desktop and LOVE it.

So now as the effects of hot water, exercise, stretching, Tiger Balm, and more heat are subsiding, I’m here to give you some ideas on how to have effective SCREEN FREE virtual meetings.

  1. Remember the phone? Some of these virtual meetings are better suited to the old school conference call format. At work we use Webex, and there is a call-only way to schedule meetings through Outlook. If your meeting will consist of people giving verbal updates with no need for visuals, consider phone only!
  2. Get moving if you’re lucky enough to have a phone only meeting. Stand up, squat, lunge, walk around the house, walk around the block while listening to the meeting. Be mindful of ergonomics by using your bluetooth headset or corded earphones to listen. Personally, I hate having earbuds in my ears, so I have two Aftershokz bone conduction headsets for use during calls, meetings, and working out.
  3. Plan ahead if you have visuals like reports or slides for your virtual meeting. When you’re meeting with people you already know (coworkers, long-term clients), the video component of your meeting may not be necessary. Provide a PDF copy of a report, slide show, or other document you’d usually put on the screen in advance via email. Encourage your meeting attendees to familiarize themselves with the PDF in advance and write notes in a notebook or print the PDF if they need to look at it during the meeting (instead of starting at the screen). This frees them up to move around and be comfortable during the meeting instead of frozen in front of their webcam. If they must look at the screen, provide instruction in advance and/or during the call of WHEN to refer to the screen so they don’t need to look at it the entire time.
  4. Get creative in your presentation of materials during virtual meetings. As in #3 above, add instruction on when to look at the screen. Similarly, instruct people on when to turn on their webcam if not needed the entire time. Consider having the camera on during the beginning of the meeting if any introductions are needed, then tell people they may turn them off for the remainder or until the end to say goodbye. As always, remind people that video is optional, often people need to put lunch on the table or quickly review a child’s assignment since most schools are still in hybrid or 100% online learning.
  5. Treat it like a book report. If a virtual meeting is meant to move a collaborative project along, set an expectation that the materials need to be reviewed in advance, and the meeting is a verbal call to discuss progress and action items. When you gave a book report in front of the class as a kid, the entire class didn’t have your book in their hands!

I have to do that ergonomic assessment now, do you have any ideas to add?

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