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Meeting Recovery Syndrome: Here’s What You Should Know

When unproductive meetings are a regular event, they can cause something called “meeting recovery syndrome.”

By Fellow.app  •   May 31, 2022  •   7 min read

Meetings are great for sharing information and collaborating. They’re how you get your whole team to brainstorm and get aligned around a common goal. However, it is possible to run meetings in a, well…not so great way. Now, one or two bad meetings aren’t the end of the world, but several in a row can lead to meeting recovery syndrome. That can be bad for your entire organization, not just the people in your meetings.

Learning how to spot the telltale signs of meeting recovery syndrome and fix everything can help your organization course-correct before you have a major problem. Below is everything you should know.

What is meeting recovery syndrome?

Meeting recovery syndrome (MRS) is the period after a bad meeting when everyone who was there struggles to get back in the zone. Sure, it might surprise you that just one little meeting – even a bad one – can be so taxing. Research shows that ineffective meetings are big-time brain drains. The root of MRS, in short, is the cognitive switch from chatting with the group to actually doing the tasks you all talked about.

A caveat: You probably have good meetings all the time and still need a little time to get back into the swing of things afterward. Yes, it’s true – even after a good meeting, it can take effort to get back in the groove. But with bad meetings, the sheer lack of employee engagement makes that catch-up time way longer. If all your meetings are bad, then the extended MRS can consistently put your team behind schedule.

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The effects of meeting recovery syndrome

Meeting recovery syndrome has a few effects that can help you recognize when your team comes down with it. Act quickly, and you’ll probably be fine. Unmanaged, though, MRS could cause several problems including but not limited to those listed below.

1 Fatigue

After a bad meeting, drained attendees might need a bit to recover as their energy levels gradually return to normal. Some people will bounce back quicker than others, but most team members experience some sort of lull in their usual work pace. While that isn’t much of an issue after one not-so-great meeting, it becomes a problem if you’re only having bad meetings.

MRS recovery periods nearly back-to-back don’t give your team time enough to regain all their energy. Eventually, they’ll find themselves drained to dangerous levels, potentially causing fatigue to keep building until they’re unable to do anything but try to recover. 

2 Stress

When your team is going through unproductive meetings one after another, their brains and bodies can’t replenish between meetings. Additionally, there are only so many hours in the workday, and a schedule full of unproductive meetings doesn’t leave much room for actual tasks. It wouldn’t take long for team members who are more susceptible to meeting recovery syndrome to start dreading every meeting. 

The added stress over the gathering itself can cause even more of their energy to get used up sitting through it. That anxiety can make the effects of MRS worse and cause employees to feel even more distant from their work. 

3 Decreased productivity

With an overflow of stress and a lack of energy, it’s no surprise that multiple bad meetings often slash productivity over time. Team members have less time in the day to do their work, and they most likely won’t have the energy to do the work well. That either means more hours fixing mistakes or figuring out how to work with low-quality work. 

How to prevent meeting recovery syndrome

Knowing how to recognize MRS is a great first step, but now you have to make sure it never rears its head among your team. While holding fewer meetings seems like the obvious solution, it won’t help if those meetings are still bad. Below are several tips and techniques to help you make the most of your meetings and avoid meeting recovery syndrome. 

1Arrive on time

You’re responsible for setting your meeting’s tone, and showing up late is an excellent way to start off on the wrong foot. Anyone going to a meeting is taking valuable time out of their day to be there, so arriving or starting late can come off disrespectful.

If you can’t be bothered to show up on time, it might be tough for anyone to keep their eyes on the meeting agenda. Did you really take the agenda that seriously if you didn’t stick to the start time? Arrive on time to keep MRS off the table.

2Come prepared 

If you show up unprepared, you could wind up running a bad meeting that extends your team’s MRS. For example, if you don’t send an agenda ahead of time, they might have more trouble following along. The extra time needed to keep everyone following along can make meetings run longer too. Those are two ways to lead to bad meetings that then lead to meeting recovery syndrome, so come prepared instead.

3Watch for phones

Some meetings are phone-free, and that’s not a bad policy in and of itself, but some team members do use their phones for productive purposes at meetings. Taking them away could lessen their productivity. So instead, check how everyone’s using their phones to see if you’re keeping the room’s attention. If most people spend more time on their phones instead of paying attention, you’ll know you need to start having better meetings. As you do, you’ll keep MRS out of your team members’ lives.

4Make sure everyone can participate

It’s natural for some people to speak more at meetings than others. Although you don’t want to penalize those team members, you should also get ideas from more than one or two people. Making sure that everyone gets their chance to speak helps create an effective meeting environment. The result is good meetings – and the result of that is no meeting recovery syndrome. 

5Keep the discussion moving

Nobody has an endless attention span. Even the most invested team member will struggle to focus if you stay stuck on the same topic for way longer than what’s in the agenda. Generally, meetings should be quick and snappy to keep everyone invested while still sharing all the important information. 

To prevent your meeting from slowing to a crawl, you should stick to your meeting agenda’s time limits. Set start and end times for each agenda item and limit how long anyone has to speak. This helps keep meetings brief, and it helps leave enough time that everyone gets the chance to speak. Afterward, they’ll feel happier with the meeting and less prone to MRS.

6Keep conversations constructive

Meetings are most useful when conversations stay constructive. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be in agreement all the time. When people with different thoughts and opinions speak at meetings, disagreements can happen, and they can be helpful when things stay civil. But if people are getting heated and cutting each other off, it’s time to step in. You can remind everyone of your meeting objective to get back on track and keep your meetings good enough to avoid MRS. 

7Use tools

There are many tools you can use to run effective meetings. Some of these platforms keep the typical meeting flow moving more smoothly, such as meeting agenda tools. Others can help the group assign meeting action items – with these post-meeting tasks on the table, everyone knows they have to keep paying attention. If your team is tuning out from your meetings, the right tool can improve your whole situation and put MRS in the dust.

8Ask for feedback

A great way to avoid bad meetings is giving your team the floor to point out problems. While it can be tough to accept feedback, it’s what you need to hold better meetings. Plus, a team that can speak freely about its concerns is a team that feels more comfortable at meetings. That makes them much less likely to get stuck with MRS.

As Phi Jacobson, VP of Product & Operations at #paid, says, “Focus on building a feedback-first culture, where it’s normal and encouraged to regularly share constructive and positive feedback; with this foundation, your team will feel comfortable voicing problems proactively.”

Meetings don’t need to be taxing

Team members slowly getting back up to working speed after a meeting is normal, Meeting recovery syndrome is what happens when that process takes too long thanks to bad meetings that drain everyone’s mental and physical resources. All that extra recovery time needed can cut into your team’s working hours. 

There are many ways to avoid bad meetings, and Fellow is among the most effective. Fellow is an easy-to-use meeting tool with several useful features for collaboratively creating agendas, taking real-time notes, and better organizing your ideas. You can run your best meetings yet and leave your employees ready to do their work almost the moment they get back to their desks.

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