I’ve always believed effective leadership involves leading by example.

In my previous role as CMO at G2.com, I wanted employees to feel comfortable talking about their mental health. This wasn’t going to happen overnight – people don’t just start talking about issues which previously have had stigma attached to them because their boss says they can.

Instead, I had to show my colleagues that I was serious about putting mental health on the agenda. I tweeted about my daily gratitude journal, made it public when I needed to take a mental health day, and listed my weekly therapy sessions as public on my work calendar.

Ultimately, my intention as a leader was to make clear to my colleagues that they were safe to do the same.

In my new role with browser-based video meeting platform Whereby, I’ve introduced one video free call day a week to help tackle concerns about video call fatigue.

As industry leaders, we need to set an example about how we can use video meetings to enhance our work, rather than hinder it.

If we show people how the technology can best be used, hopefully others will follow our example. And having one day a week without video calls is a great place to start.

Championing better meetings

Video meetings alone are not causing video meeting fatigue. The issue is the quantity of video meetings many businesses are now scheduling to compensate for lack of face-to-face interaction.

Many of my friends tell me they will regularly open their work calendar to find their day completely stacked with video calls, meaning they have very little time to work through their actual to-do lists.

By having one meeting free day and reducing the volume of video calls, the remaining meetings you do have will benefit enormously.

Nearly 73 per cent of employees admit to working on other tasks during meetings. Pausing meetings for one day will improve engagement levels in meetings in the rest of the week – as employees will have time to actually do their work – and also ensure everyone’s schedules are aligned.

Uninterrupted focus

On video meeting free day – Wednesday – my team and I are able to attack more time-consuming, complex tasks which require sustained attention.

Our schedules are now planned around this structure, with time built in for smaller tasks either side of meetings during the rest of the week.

In the few weeks we’ve been running the policy so far, colleagues have commented on how productivity levels have benefitted from being able to work with a sense of ‘flow.’

Even the most productive meetings still interrupt the day and each one takes a while before people can get back into a working rhythm. One day without video meetings allows staff to experience a more focused work zone to tackle more substantial projects and make proper in-roads on their to-do lists.

How to make your meeting free day successful

If you think you like the sound of a video call free day and you want to give it a go, here are a couple of additional tips to get you started:

1. Have a plan

It’s important to be selective with the work you allocate for your video call-free day. While it’s all well and good to save the big tasks for this day, you still need to focus on what is realistic to achieve in a morning or afternoon session of work.

From the project you have in mind, identify two or three targets which you write down or record in your calendar. These are the only tasks you will focus on, which can be tricky at first.

Usually, we prioritise ‘urgent’ tasks before attempting those which are ‘important’ if we have time. On meeting free days however, it’s the ‘important’ tasks which are the priority.

Without video meetings, your motivation for completing work and being productive will need to come from within. Discovering effective strategies for self-motivation can also take practice.

2. Block out routine tasks

Resisting the temptation to check Slack or refresh your e-mails can be challenging at first. On your first few video call-free days, it can be a good idea to set up an ‘out-of-office’ response so that colleagues know not to expect an immediate reply.

3. Give your team a heads up

When you first commit to a meeting free day, it can be easy for a lot of people to forget when it is and not factor it into their own work. While the routine is still being cemented, remember to drop your team and clients a message the afternoon before to say that you’ll be having a meeting free day tomorrow and will be picking up meetings the following day.