PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It started out as a cool way to get business done and ten months ago it was a nice idea to go to work in the comfort of home in front of your computer in your sweats.

But now virtual workspaces have started to create a fatigue factor and it can be difficult to concentrate and stay mentally tuned in.

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Jane Pernotto-Ehrman is a Behavioral Health Specialist at Cleveland Clinic and says your virtual meeting could also be viewed as a way to connect to others outside our isolation at home.

“For one thing from the waist up we can look just absolutely fabulous,” she said. “We can be relaxed in the things that we’re wearing. There is something wonderful about being in your own familiar environment to be able to do these things.”

But she adds there need to be limits.

“When you go from meeting to meeting, to meeting, you don’t have a break in between,” she explained. “If I were the meeting organizer queen, I would say, meetings begin on the hour and they end at 55 minutes.”

That five minutes is critical she says.

“Step away and gather yourself,” she said. “That five minutes isn’t necessarily a good time to be checking your media or checking your emails or texts although you may have to. Or because of the work you do. But it really needs to be about some self-care.”

Pernotto-Ehrman says managers need to be aware that the five-minute break is critical to productivity, as minds wander or zone out the employee is no longer contributing.

She says to remember the Zoom meeting is the new conference room and if you wouldn’t do it in a conference room full of people, don’t do it on Zoom.

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“Just a whole different environment,” she explained. “Because some people multitask, have you noticed that? You know and so that takes everybody off focus, and it’s rude. That’s right. First of all, it is rude.”

That includes eating – unless it’s a lunch or breakfast meeting and everyone is doing it. She also adds: “Multitasking means that you’re not taking it all in, and so, that becomes a stress point because you’re not getting all the information.”

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But this Behavioral Specialist says it’s also important to lighten up at times.

“Have some self-compassion and a sense of humor,” she reminds people. “We’re all just trying to move through this the best we can and to not be so rigid about perfection it has to be just right to enjoy it. This is a way we get to connect and be with each other. Otherwise, we’d really be stuck.”

So before you go on your virtual meeting eliminate as many distractions as you can in your own environment and if what others are doing distracts you change your setting. Going to “speaker view” instead of the gallery allows you to concentrate only on the person speaking.

Managers can also consider doing theme meetings just to change things up and make it interesting.

Ugly holiday sweaters might be a possibility.

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We all need the meetings to do our jobs, we just have to keep them fresh.