How to Combat Zoom Fatigue

Posted on 5/18/2020, 9:51:11 PM

Workplaces have changed dramatically. One of the biggest changes has been an increase in Zoom meetings. Using Zoom to video conference has been a great solution for people who are working from home, but Zoom meetings still present a few challenges, namely, “Zoom Fatigue”, after using the application. If you’ve found that you’re experiencing “Zoom Fatigue”, you’re not alone. Google searches for dealing with “Zoom Fatigue” have skyrocketed as more and more people find that Zoom meetings leave them feeling, well, exhausted. We’re going to get into how to deal, but first, what causes it?

In a regular meeting, if you mentally check out for a bit, you can always whisper to a coworker to help catch you up. In a Zoom meeting, you really can’t afford to space out, because there’s no one there to catch you up on what you missed while you were in la la land. That level of increased focus can be draining. Especially since many people are using Zoom while they’re working from home, which makes concentrating even harder (especially if you’ve got kids or pets running around). Those distractions, combined with the usual work distractions like e-mail, slack, or catching up on some unrelated task, means that you’re having to expend more energy to stay focused. Plus, interacting with someone over Zoom is different than in person, and you’re less likely to do things that give your eyes a break like looking around the room. Add the energy needed to focus, and the energy expended to fight off distraction, and it is no wonder people leave Zoom meetings feeling fatigued. 

Let’s stop that from happening. Here are some tips to prevent you from getting Zoom Fatigue.

Tip #1: Stay focused on the meeting at hand. Check your email later. 

When you’re in a Zoom meeting and you see an e-mail notification pop up, it's hard to resist the urge to switch tasks. It may seem like a harmless distraction, but switching focus can have more consequences than you may realize. Because different parts of your brain are activated in the two tasks, switching tasks can seriously cut into performance, cutting into your productive time by 40%. Studies done by Stanford researchers have also indicated that multitasking can seriously compromise performance: those who attempted to multi-task reported remembering much less than their focused counterparts. Combat the urge to multi-task by closing tabs in your browser, putting your phone in an unreachable spot, and staying focused on the chat. When temptations arise, remember: your performance will be compromised on your video chat, and on anything, you try to multitask with. Better to wait til it's over, so you can be fully present when you write that e-mail or respond to that slack.

 Tips #2: Take small breaks during meetings to prevent fatigue. 

Staring at a small screen can be exhausting, so taking a little break can boost performance and help combat fatigue. One small way you can give yourself a break is by looking at something other than your screen for a moment. Look out the window or around the room to give your eyes a break. Let your eyes rest, or even stand up during the meeting to break up the monotony. If you have multiple meetings, consider cutting them short. 30 minutes could become 25 minutes, 60 minutes could become 50 minutes. This will give you the chance to move around between meetings. Oh, and notice we said “take a break”, we didn’t say use this chance to multitask!

Tip #3: Cut out the tiny video of yourself using your Zoom preferences, and get coworkers on board to eliminate other distractions with neutral backgrounds. 

Part of the fatigue of Zoom meetings is that you’ve got so many things to look at during video chats. You might be staring at yourself in the corner, or checking out the offices where your coworkers are working. That’s a lot of visual stimulation! To cut back, opt-out of having the video of yourself in the corner of your video calls. Resist the urge to examine where your coworkers are working, and, if you find it is too distracting, suggest setting backgrounds to a neutral one. You can also ask if everyone in your group wants to turn off their video, except for the person who is speaking, eliminating many sources of distraction and fatigue. 

Tip #4: See if you can move meetings to phone, e-mail, or Slack. 

To give yourself a break from Zoom, use another form of communication, if possible. Look at your future meetings and consider whether they could be handled over e-mail or Slack, for instance. If you hit the end of the day and you’re exhausted from all of the Zoom meetings, ask the person you’re meeting with if they would mind switching to phone or e-mail. Tell them you’d love to take a break from video calls and ask if they’d like to do the same. They might also be eager for a break from all of the video chatting.

Tip #5: If you’ve always communicated with someone over the phone or by email, no need to switch over. Remember, you’re not obligated to use video chat with clients or coworkers. 

Once you’ve adjusted to using Zoom, you might start defaulting to using Zoom, even when in the past you would have communicated with someone over email or the phone. Try to resist the urge: it will only add to your Zoom fatigue. If you’ve only ever communicated with someone via email or phone, don’t feel like you have to switch over to video calls, especially if the topic you’re going to discuss is sensitive in nature or doesn’t require video chat. If a client or coworker initiates a video chat, don’t feel obligated to engage. Simply let them know that you would be happy to call (or email them) back. 

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