What is Zoom Fatigue, and how to reduce it?
Have you ever logged out of your last Zoom or MS Teams meeting for the day and found yourself completely drained? If so, you're not alone. Many people are dealing with Zoom fatigue (sometimes called video fatigue). It refers to the exhaustion you feel after a video call or conference. It's not a formal diagnosis, but Zoom fatigue is very real.
Never before has it been easier to stay in touch globally with companies worldwide and meet face-to-face even while traveling. With tools like Zoom, Skype, Facetime and Zoom, making sure that someone can see you don't have to mean you'll talk every day over lunch or drinks as a sign of significant importance either because these skills can be used productively professionally without interrupting your all golden hour plans on vacation!
Recognizing Zoom Fatigue.
Work-based burnout is nothing new, especially for people working in service-based careers. On top of the usual work-related stress, the pandemic has caused everyone's mental health to dip. And yet, most of us are expected to continue working as if nothing has happened. The pandemic has affected many lives. It's only natural that our work interactions are also affected. Exhaustion manifests itself in apathy and a feeling of generally being exhausted. This is associated with reduced work performance.
Here are some signs that might indicate your burnout level:
- forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
- difficulty maintaining relationships and being present with loved ones
- frustration and irritability with co-workers
- physical symptoms, like muscle tension, pain, fatigue, and insomnia
Zoom fatigue is becoming an increasing cause of burnout. People are canceling meetings, making everyone lose time and causing tension with their Zoom group in the process. It hinders your ability to multitask at work or handle your workload, making it another significant contributor to productivity loss on top of actual stress and anxiety in itself.
Why are video meetings so exhausting?
It's not just your imagination. Several factors make video meetings legitimately tiring.
Your brain needs to work harder.
However, it takes more work to encode facial expressions and tone than in real-life interactions when communicating virtually. This can impair your ability to interpret the words of the person you're talking with.
You have to be 'on.'
Working from home means some added privacy and convenience, but with freedom comes new concerns. Some companies require their employees to dress as if they're coming to work. Others forbid employees from taking calls on their phones (not ideal if you live in a small loft or have roommates). Recurring Slack notifications are sometimes annoying when I'm already focused on something else. It's one thing to swap into urgent mode quickly while I am at my desk, but switching gears constantly while working within the walls of my own home can be hard at times.
Due to some of these expectations, sometimes bits of your home life show up during meetings. This can feel a little embarrassing or overwhelming (even though your boss is likely dealing with the same things). Having to walk your team through a budget meeting while your dog is barking, your toddler is crying, and your teens are arguing over who is using whose headphones can be a lot to manage. Balancing work with the rest of your life is hard enough, but working from home adds a new layer to the challenge.
What can I do?
Video calls are here to stay. Luckily, there are things you can do to feel comfortable and in control when participating in these instant meetings.
It's totally ok to tap out.
There will always be meetings that you can't get out of attending, but there are ones that you cannot pass on either. Simple apologies go a long way if you need to switch the video off and you absolutely a recording at later times.
Schedule zoom meetings for those things that you want to do
The biggest challenge to being professional in zoom meetings is that you might repeatedly be dealing with internet connectivity issues. The expectation of professionalism also causes many Zoom users to continually deal with the guilt involved in doing fun things over Zoom, as family and friends watch your every move on a low-resolution webcam. To stay fully present and enjoy yourself during impromptu get-togethers using traditional video conferencing calls might make it more enjoyable – plus, scheduling time to simply catch up with online friends is always a great idea!
Turn your video off or schedule a walking meeting if it isn't mandatory.
Every work environment is a bit different, but sometimes, do it if you can turn off your camera! If you need to multitask — folding the laundry, nursing, making lunch — turning off your video can enable you to maximize your time and feel less pressure to appear in a certain way through the screen. Tom Suter also suggests taking a moment "to assess whether video conferencing is even needed." Would an audio-only walking meeting with Feeting work just as well? #walkingmeeting
Experiment with different formats.
Strive to figure out what works best for your schedule and mental health. Depending on your needs and schedule, several options are available for organizing your office. For instance, you could reserve Mondays for interoffice communication and strategic planning with senior management and plan Feeting Fridays for all your walking meetings where you can do 1:1's, brainstorm, etc. Maybe stacking all today's mandatory Zoom meetings at the beginning of this week is something that works well for you as an organizer. #feetingfriday
Where it all boils down to
Working too long without breaks can make you sick. A growing global epidemic doesn't help anything and isn't likely to go away anytime soon, nor is a virtual collaboration (zoom meetings). So whether you have your own working space or do most of your work from home, consider what you need in the way of time off from the office to pursue other wellness goals. And if managing people is your responsibility be especially mindful that work could suffer by not giving them enough break for themselves (zoom meetings).