There has never been a time when video conferencing was more popular. We’re all increasingly reliant on video calls at work and in our personal lives. If you are experiencing that you are completely exhausted after a long day of “Zoom” meetings in comparison to when they happened in person, then you are not alone.
Even the HBR mentioned that searches for the term “Zoom Fatigue” have surfaced on social media and Google searches more increasingly since the early pandemic.
Stanford University developed the Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue (ZEF) scale to better understand this relatively new phenomenon. Their preliminary research reveals that the frequency and duration of Zoom meetings or video calls are connected with a higher level of weariness or mental fatigue and loss of focus at work.
Like many things the pandemic brought — a period of lockdowns, quarantines, and isolation — video calls are not only used for conducting business. They enable people to communicate with friends, participate in fitness programs, attend important life events such as weddings, graduations, and even funerals, participate in social activities, learn remotely, and even worship. However, when we experience everything through a screen-one that continually seems to look at us, we are bound to wear out.
Here’s a guide for you to understand what Zoom fatigue is, what causes it, and top tips you can use to beat it.
Table of contents
- Why do we find video calls so draining?
- Symptoms of Zoom Fatigue
- 9 Proven Ways to Combat Zoom Fatigue That Actually Works
- 1. Minimize the Visual Noise From Your Background 🏖️
- 2. Turn On Your Camera Only If It’s Necessary 🎦
- 3. Take Mini-breaks ⏸️
- 4. Video Calls Are Not Mirrors 🪞
- 5. Avoid Multitasking During Zoom Meeting 🤹🏼
- 6. Opt For Asynchronous Meetings When Possible 🔄
- 7. Time Spent in Banter is Not Time Spent in Vain 🖖
- 8. Mentally brace yourself before every “Zoom” meeting 😌
- 9. Designate a no meeting no phone call day 📵
Why do we find video calls so draining?
Zoom fatigue, alternatively referred to as video call fatigue or screen fatigue, is a term that refers to the intense fatigue and exhaustion associated with virtual meetings. Zoom fatigue or exhaustion is not exclusive to the Zoom platform but to any video web conferencing program.
We are exhausted because these Zoom meetings force us to concentrate more on the screen and the conversations to absorb knowledge. Consider this: while seated in a conference room, you can rely on whispered side conversations to catch up if you become sidetracked or to respond to fast, clarifying queries. However, this is not possible during a video call unless you use the private chat tool or uncomfortably attempt to unmute and ask a colleague to repeat themselves. The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.
The problem is further complicated by the fact that video calls make it simpler to lose concentration than ever before. We’ve all done it: determined that yes, indeed, we can listen closely, check our email, text a friend, and post a smiley face on Slack all within thirty seconds.
Except, of course, when we’re distracted, we don’t do any listening at all. Working from home further adds fuel to the fire.
Additionally, on a video call, the only way to show your boss and colleagues that you are paying attention is by constantly looking at the camera. However in real life, how frequently do you find yourself standing within three feet of a coworker and staring at their face? Almost certainly never. This is because maintaining a “continuous look” makes us feel uneasy — and exhausted. In person, we can utilize our peripheral vision to gaze out the window or at other people in the room. Because we are all sitting in various homes during a video chat, we are concerned that if we turn to gaze out the window, it may appear as if we are not paying attention. Not to mention that the majority of us are peering into a small window of ourselves to make sure we don’t look weird, which makes us hyper-aware of every wrinkle, expression, and possible interpretation. Without the visual breaks to help our brain refocus, they become weary.
Symptoms of Zoom Fatigue
Video calling fatigue symptoms vary from person to person. Some may encounter only one, while others may experience several. The condition may be exacerbated by existing mental health problems or other forms of stress as a result of working from home.
However, it’s critical to note that attending a meeting or two will not leave you completely drained. Although, it can be exhausting if your profession demands you to take part in several video chat meetings on a daily basis.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of Zoom Fatigue:
- Headaches or migraines 🤕
- Social Anxiety 😰
- Feelings of “burnout”(i.e. feeling overworked) 😫
- Social detachment ⛔
- Depression 😔
- Pessimism 👎
- Sensitivity to light or sound 💥
- Lack of motivation 🙅♂️
- Low productivity 📉
9 Proven Ways to Combat Zoom Fatigue That Actually Works
Zooming fatigue is real and creates exhaustive sensations and other unpleasant problems. While all of this may sound like bad news, there is some good news: with the proper practices, it is easy to manage zoom fatigue.
Here are 9 tips on how to prevent “Zoom Fatigue” and get you started for your next meeting.
1. Minimize the Visual Noise From Your Background 🏖️
Distractions on the screen extend beyond the self. When we’re on a video call, we’re not only focused on the other person’s face, but also on their surroundings. While we can regulate some of these impulses, our brains thrive on analyzing visual cues, and there is little we can do about it. The logic is simple: the more visuals you feed your brain, the more it thinks.
Video conferencing is a technological milestone but is not compatible with genes. This means, our brains attempt to analyze information via our computer screen in the same way they do in real-time. Imagine the following scenario: you’re on a video call with five individuals. At this time, your brain is processing data from five distinct places. To your brain, it may appear as though you are in five different rooms at the same time. Thus, when you’re attempting to take critical notes from your quick-talking boss, your brain is subconsciously analyzing other people’s furnishings, plants, and animals. These types of distractions in video calls can exhaust you and contribute to “Zoom fatigue”.
In order to manage visual overload, it is best to use virtual or simple backgrounds with fewer visual features during a zoom meeting or any video call.
2. Turn On Your Camera Only If It’s Necessary 🎦
Not every meeting requires the attendance of attentive smiling faces. Allow your lovely face to rest and those cheekbones to relax. This is particularly true for business meetings.
Feeling ‘seen’ throughout the meeting and trying to look decent on camera back-to-back not only causes distraction and contributes to a sense of exhaustion but also breaks your personal space making you feel vulnerable.
Ideally, turning on the camera should be optional. If your business prefers video calls over audio calls, you can have a healthy debate with them about arranging meeting schedules that minimize video face-to-face interactions.
3. Take Mini-breaks ⏸️
It’s always a good idea to take pauses between lengthy video calls. A 5-minute rest can re-energize you. It’s a good practice for a business to adopt, particularly during lengthy meetings. Suggestion: Include pauses between two video chat sessions.
If you’re not quite ready to discuss the agenda with your coworkers, take a little break by simply looking away from your computer for a few seconds. Video chats significantly reduce our visual mobility. When you stare at an object for an extended period of time, you indirectly fatigue your eyes by not shifting the object’s proximity.
Looking away at something far away (the sky through the window, or simply closing your eyes) exercises your eye muscles and may help alleviate fatigue. It’s similar to extending your body after a long time of inactivity and is quite calming.
If you are unable to prevent back-to-back zoom calls, try to keep the meetings between 25 to 50 minutes (rather than the customary 30, 45, or 60 minutes) and schedule breaks in between those meetings to allow for some downtime and rejuvenation.
4. Video Calls Are Not Mirrors 🪞
Have you ever noticed a coworker fixing his/her hair during a meeting? We’re frequently so concerned with how we appear on camera that we steal glances to ensure everything is fine.
According to studies, in Zoom calls or in any video conferencing platform, we spend the majority of our time looking at our own faces. Additionally, we maintain certain facial expressions or body language because they appear to be ‘appropriate’ for the moment. On a video call, we can also see ourselves, which is somewhat unnatural. This means that we are more inclined to focus on our facial expressions, what we’re wearing, or our overall appearance rather than the conversation.
This self-conscious behavior not only induces fatigue in our facial muscles over time, but such continual mirroring can also result in distracted behavior, further compounding the gap.
The next time you’re in a video meeting, adjust your computer settings to minimize your screen size and hide self-view. Take note of the effect this has on your overall focus during the meeting!
5. Avoid Multitasking During Zoom Meeting 🤹🏼
It is alluring to do more in less time when the reward is more free time. However, research suggests that trying to do several tasks at once can hinder your productivity.
As you use different portions of your brain for various tasks, continuously switching between them can strain your brain more quickly. Think about what happens to the processor of your laptop when you run too many apps/software at once. It hangs or slows down sometimes. The same applies to your brain.
In fact, a Stanford study indicated that people who multitask don’t recall anything. So try and close tabs, programs, or windows that don’t necessarily have to be there next time you’re on a video conversation.
We understand it’s tempting to check your social media, or refresh your inbox casually, or send humorous messages between meetings to friends. But if you continue to do this it will only increase your cognitive load and exacerbate the Zoom fatigue. You may remain more concentrated by decreasing the immediate availability of distractions. Take short breaks to check your socials instead of periods of boredom or frustration.
6. Opt For Asynchronous Meetings When Possible 🔄
How often do you just sit down at a meeting and think it could have been an email or a simple phone call? Chances are you did it more than once. All of us share a contempt for meetings, especially the unproductive ones. However, we still spend a lot of time in them. According to estimates, we waste up to 31 hours per month in unnecessary meetings. And even worse, the number of meetings in which the average person takes part during the pandemic has climbed by 12.9%.
One great approach to shorten meetings is through asynchronous meetings. Synchronous video chats require all participants to be present in the video chat at the same time and that only one person speaks at a time. Asynchronous meetings are those that are not real-time (synchronous) in nature and do not demand instant response.
“Asynchronous communications can be sent at any time without regard to whether or not the receiver is ready. For example, an email is asynchronous” – John Spacey
Asynchronous meetings allow you to effectively organize remote work. You simply do not have the luxury of pointless meetings that overlaps the working hours of your employees. Moving less important meetings to written forms of communication such as group chats rather than having video calls not only will reduce fatigue but also will save your and your coworkers’ time.
To know more about Asynchronous Meetings check out our other blog: 7 Essential Meetings That Should Always Be Async and 4 That Shouldn’t
7. Time Spent in Banter is Not Time Spent in Vain 🖖
How many times have you entered a room for an in-person meeting and immediately jumped to the point? There is always some small in-person conversation, jokes, and catching up on the weekend, if not more among office workers.
The tiredness of the zoom is not only sound, face, or technology. It’s about communication, too. It’s crucial to keep things compassionate on busy days when your interaction with people is confined to the people you meet on calls. For instance, talk about something outside work while your team is waiting for everyone to join. Say something funny or ask people if they’d like to meet them in real life.
As it has become a natural etiquette of an online conference to only say things that appear relevant to everybody as everybody is listening, people sometimes feel anxious about mentioning things that are not immediately important on the agenda. It doesn’t have to be that way, however.
This also does not mean that every meeting turns into a Saturday night pub chat. However, a little humorous banter and a hearty laugh go a long way!
8. Mentally brace yourself before every “Zoom” meeting 😌
Zoom meetings may be stressful, even more so when pressing and/or critical issues are on the agenda. Whatever the meeting’s purpose, it’s a good idea to take a few moments before signing on to re-center yourself in preparation for the event. Allow yourself time to clear your thoughts of distractions and preoccupations — or at the very least to temporarily store them in a “parking lot” for later contemplation.
Deep breathing is another beneficial activity to do. Mental and physical relaxation are among the several health benefits associated with deep breathing exercises, according to research.
9. Designate a no meeting no phone call day 📵
You are probably not the only person in your organization who is experiencing Zoom fatigue. Discuss it with your colleagues and schedule a “meeting and phone call” free day. The entire firm chooses not to schedule any business-related work on that day. This allows you to concentrate on heads-down work without attempting to squeeze it in between calls. Additionally, you can invert it and have one day where people can schedule meetings or phone calls. Whatever suits you better.
Here is the final takeaway: Zoom Fatigue is real and your quality of life is reduced.
It is not the fault of Zoom or any other video conferencing program. These companies have created incredible tools that enable us to connect face-to-face with people hundreds of miles apart. The issue is that we’ve grown so dependent on them that they’ve begun to burn us out.
Fortunately, now that you understand what Zoom fatigue is and how it occurs, you can utilize these suggestions above to combat it and create a more productive work environment for yourself!