Zoom fatigue: why and how to deal with it.

Zoom fatigue: why and how to deal with it.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we’ve all been connected digitally by either Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, or any other platforms to stay employed and to communicate with colleagues, clients, and our customers. Although it was forced upon us to stay home and we quickly got into meeting virtually, we now feel more exhausted at the end of a workday than usual.

As video calls is an elegant solution to remote work, the effects of it have taken us by surprise. Zoom fatigue is a common phrase that popped up on social media recently and the same phrase has steadily increased in Google searches since March. So, you’re not alone!

Why are you feeling tired?

It’s the emotional effort to appear interested and without many non-verbal cues, the intense focus on words and sustained eye contact that makes it so exhausting. Meetings used to be important rituals in the office that provided comfort, put us at ease, and helped to build and maintain rapport, and without it, we feel uneasy.

We tend to focus on the words being spoken but also on the positions of the other listeners (are they facing you or slightly turned away), if they’re fidgeting with something, or when they are inhaling quickly in preparation to interrupt. It’s also a big drain to someone dependent on hand and body language, which is eliminated to some extent when the screen display is a shoulders-up frame.

With continuous partial attention, the brain is trying to multitask, much like cooking and reading at the same time, and failing to navigate a group chat. Face-to-face meetings are also an important mechanism for communication and feelings, and our emotions precede and follow all our behaviours. Now sensitive topics are canvassed, enquiring us to be subtle and show empathy.

Our brains have limited working memory and can only do so many things consciously at once. Meeting online increases our cognitive load because its features take up a lot of conscious capacity, and we miss out on communication, are worried that the kids might run in, and find that looking at your own face is stressful.

How to combat Zoom fatigue?

Consider which meetings are essential and which documents can be shared on platforms, such as Shuffler, with detailed comments instead. Using messaging, mail, or the phone can help to reduce the stress and assist you with thinking.

Turning on the camera should be optional and don’t have to be on throughout the entire meeting. Having your screen off to the side will help your concentration as it would feel like you’re in an adjoining room so it may be less tiring.

Catch up first before diving into business, and check into people’s wellbeing. It’s a way to reconnect, maintain trust and reduce fatigue and concern. Avoid multitasking when you’re in a video chat, close tabs and programs that may distract you. Trying to do multiple things can cost you as much as 40 percent of your productive time.

Building transition periods in between video meetings can help you refresh. Try stretching, having a drink, or doing a bit of exercise. Also, take breaks from the video call by minimizing the window or just looking away from the screen now and then. Let your eyes rest for a moment. With back-to-back meetings, consider having 30-minute sessions to allow yourself to move around for a bit.