Zoom Fatigue

Zoom Fatigue

April 2020

Written by: Joy Duce, Chief Operating Officer

It is Tuesday. I wake up and per my normal protocol, grab my cell phone to check my calendar for the day. 13 Zoom meetings in a 10-hour period. YIKES! It is going to be a very long day. Before COVID-19, days like this were not uncommon. The big difference was most of these meetings were held face-to-face with movement to different locations for each meeting.

As Tuesday draws to a close, I am exhausted! I can’t understand how my pre-COVID life days, where I caught the 7:00 am train into downtown Chicago and ran around the city all day meeting people, just to jump back on the train again and sit in the car in traffic for 45 minutes on my way home from the station, could not wear me down like the day I just had. 

Then it hit me…I have ZOOM FATIGUE.

While video chat is helping us with business continuity and staying connected, what makes it so tiring and how can we reduce Zoom fatigue?

One of the key contributors to Zoom fatigue is how we process information via a video. During a video call, the only way to demonstrate you are paying attention is by staring at the camera. If you translate that to real life, how often do you stand three feet from a colleague and stare at their face? I would hope the answer to that is, never! In an in-person setting, we can use our peripheral vision to glance out a window or look at other people in the room around the table. On a video call, because we are all in different locations, if we turn to look out a window, we are worried it may be perceived that we are not paying attention. In addition, being able to see ourselves in a small screen can make us hyper-aware of how we look and the expressions we make. Without the visual breaks, our brains desperately needs, we get fatigued.

Do not despair, there is hope. Here are some tips to make video calls less exhausting. First, build in breaks. Avoid back to back calls to give yourself time to get up and move around. For longer calls, look away from your computer now and again.

Avoid multi-taking. While it may be an opportunity to do more in less time, your performance diminishes. During video chat, close windows that might distract you, put your cell phone away and stay present.

Reduce your onscreen stimuli. Most of us spend much of our time staring at our own face. This can be avoided by hiding yourself from view. In addition, on-screen distractions go well beyond this. If you are on a call with seven other people, you and your brain feel like you are in seven different rooms. You can see plants, furniture, or their favorite customized virtual background. The brain must process all of this at the same time which is unnecessary and a waste of valuable brain energy. To avoid this mental fatigue, encourage the meeting participants to use the same, plain background, or agree as a group that everyone who is not talking turn of their video off during that portion of the meeting.

Do not forget the phone. Think about how much work you accomplished over the phone just eight short weeks ago. Look at your calendar, what conversations could be had over IM, email, or the phone. Eliminate unnecessary video meetings that did not used to be there and now are just for the sake of using video technology.

By taking these steps and implementing boundaries to video calls, can help you prevent feeling exhausted and disengaged at the thought of another video meeting. It has been tiring enough to adjust to the “new normal” as a result of COVID-19, work to make video calls easier for you and your team.