Energy in digital and hybrid meetings – a challenge but also new opportunities


If you close your eyes and think of the last work meeting you have participated to, you most probably will be able to remember how you felt when the meeting ended. You may not recall exactly what you talked about or what was decided (or not), but your body would probably feel again what it felt. It could be everything in between “wow, now I feel energized!” or “this was a really draining two hours”.


Whether we are conscious about it or not, energy is a concept that we often use when talking about work in general, and meetings in particular, above all in a context of hybrid work. We all have an intuitive understanding of what is “energy” and we know when we feel “energy”, and when we lose “energy”. Energy is an affective experience including feeling alive, enthusiastic, capable to act and eager to act. Energy is something that we enjoy and want to experience, but it is also something that fades away - we need to “re-charge” regularly. The opposite of energy is fatigue, which is about feeling exhausted, tired, or worn out. Energy is thus nothing we can fully capture and understand rationally, it is an embodied experience, and it is an experience that is central for both our wellbeing and for our capacity to be productive at work, particularly when interacting through digital technologies that are said to lead to specific form of stress and fatigue (for instance digital-stress or zoom-fatigue).

So what gives energy?

Opportunities for learning, experiencing meaning, and positive relationships often imply positive experiences that may give energy – even more than taking a break, actually. Contemporary working life presents however several characteristics that tend to consume employees’ energy, for instance increased interdependence between jobs requiring more interpersonal relations and interactions, which need serious efforts. Increased interdependence also means a quite high number of work meetings for coordinating, informing, negotiating, etc. – many of them digital or hybrid nowadays.

Work meetings are in fact central to much organizing – for this, they are both loved and hated, digital and hybrid meeting not the least. There is often a longing for meetings that create energy. This may lead to disappointment. Taking a step back and considering what a meeting is about, it is possible to better understand why meetings may fail to provide the energy one had hoped for, at least for some of the participants. Meetings are occasions in which collectives and individuals co-exist. On the one hand, meetings are the ideal form of “grouping”: of gathering for a collective purpose, of including, of engaging in a common enterprise. They present in other words a potentially a great opportunity of becoming energy-giving occasions. On the other hand, groups do not actually gather, it is individuals that gather. Individuals may have agendas they want to enforce, may want to take space at the expenses of others, may disagree with what the majority thinks, etc. This makes meetings inevitably sites for power struggles and relations, for identity formation and expression, for resistance, etc. Such things require emotional and affective efforts and may easily end up in experiences of frustration, sadness or meaninglessness.

Meetings thus most certainly give rise to mixed feelings and what kind of energy a meeting generates depends on who is asked – this will be different for different participants. There are however some elements that may be considered in order to lead and facilitate, or to contribute to, a meeting that becomes energizing. One element is that the perceived level of participation may affect the energy felt. The possibility to express thoughts, opinions, ideas, emotions seems to lead to a meeting becoming energy-giving. Digital meetings may offer interesting possibilities in this respect, even though they are often considered as energy-consuming, partly because they are often performed as if they were IRL meetings instead of adapted to the new medium. If their peculiarity is attended to, however, this may offer the possibility to work with energy in new ways. For instance, digital and hybrid meetings imply the possibility to open up the conversation to more voices, in different modalities (for instance not only by talking, but also using the chat, emojis, polling functions, shared whiteboards, etc).

It is in other words possible to create energy in new ways when meeting through digital technologies, but this requires care and attention. Meeting are not containers ready to use, they become what we make them into.


Lucia Crevani External link.