Have you heard of this term yet? Zoom Fatigue. Zoom Fatigue is defined as a feeling of exhaustion from constant video calls. Personally, I feel I have been experiencing more than just Zoom Fatigue over the past few weeks. I feel like I have become a Zoom Zombie. Seems counter intuitive. I mean, why should we feel exhausted when all we are doing is sitting around all day? But Zoom Fatigue is real, and with everyone working remotely, it is becoming a very common feeling.
Now, of course, Zoom Fatigue is not limited to just those who are using Zoom. Other video conferencing platforms cause the same problem: Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Skype, and BlueJeans all of them can cause exhaustion.
So what is the actual cause? There are several contributing factors:
Our Brains Work Harder
Our brains actually have to work harder when communicating via video conference. We have to work harder to understand others because we can’t rely on normal physical cues that we are able to tune into when we are communicating in person. We often feel like we are talking into a void when everyone is muted. Basically, we are wearing ourselves out trying to sense how people are reacting to what we are saying.
We are Always “On”
The fact that we can see ourselves makes us incredibly self conscious. We aren’t used to seeing ourselves as we go about our day when we are in the office and interacting with others or simply sitting in a conference room. With the camera on us all the time we become hyper aware of how we look and how our surroundings look. We feel like we are always on stage.
We are Easily Distracted
When we sit in a conference room, we are more likely to concentrate on what is going on in the meeting. If we were to look at our phones or our computers during a meeting everyone would see, and we usually refrain from doing so, if only to be polite. When we are on a video conference, it is really easy to get distracted. Desktop notifications are constantly grabbing our attention to read email or answer a question in Slack. We are often tempted to do something else while we listen to what is going on. Unfortunately, this attempt to be more productive exhausts us even more and hurts our productivity. We fail to realize how much the video call itself is already making us work.
Our Tech Gets in the Way
The tech itself can exhaust us. Slow WiFi connections, frozen screens, choppy audio, software glitches all make us work that much harder to communicate and understand what others are trying to say.
What Can We Do About it?
Luckily, there are some simple changes you can make to alleviate the exhaustion.
- Have an Agenda
- This is probably good advice for any meeting. An agenda can make sure the meeting keeps on track and doesn’t consume unnecessary time by going off on different topics. In fact, it can be really helpful to ask the meeting organizer to share the agenda ahead of time so that you can determine whether or not you even need to attend.
- Avoid Multitasking
- As we already mentioned, multitasking can exacerbate the feeling of exhaustion caused by being part of the video call in the first place. Minimize windows, silence or turn off notifications so you can concentrate on the call. Do one thing at a time and you will be able to actually accomplish more.
- Manage the Camera
- Some of us may have been assuming that keeping the cameras on helped us feel connected. Sometimes it does make us feel more connected. But as we have already stated, it can also exhaust us because we feel like we are always on. Seeing a bunch of different people in different locations can also be a lot to process. So turning off the camera may not be a bad idea every now and then. Or just have the speaker keep their camera on. Or - my favorite - just turn off self view. I like this solution since it still allows others to see me and read my facial cues, but I do not have to be conscious of what they are seeing.
- Block Out Meeting Free Time
- Sometimes we just need to concentrate on the tasks we need to get done. Start by blocking out a few hours here and there as “Do not book”. Even better, get your entire team to block out a few hours each week or an entire day when you will not participate in meetings for a much needed break from video calls and time to get other work done.
- Replace Video Calls with Other Forms of Communication
- Not all communication has to be handled in a video conference. You could always use something a bit more text-based like email or messaging apps like Slack. We have been looking into which meetings might actually be better as a recorded video. A recorded video would let the viewers review it on their own time and pause it if necessary so they won’t miss anything.
- Schedule Breaks
- Not all meetings need to be scheduled for 30 minutes or 60 minutes. Leave yourself some breathing room between meetings. Try 25 minute meetings or 50 minute meetings. Get up and stretch or walk around a bit.
So give yourself a break. Try a few of these tips: turn off the self view, block out some meeting free time, schedule meetings so you have 5 or 10 minutes free at the end. Just a few changes here and there can alleviate those feelings of Zoom Fatigue. No matter how you look at it, 2020 has been an incredibly hard year. The constant stress of not knowing what horrendous thing is going to happen next is exhausting in itself. Any little thing we can do to reduce stress and alleviate some of the exhaustion will help.