Zoom meetings are on the rise — thank you, coronavirus! On the one hand, that’s awesome. During these last couple of months, I’ve relied on Zoom to catch-up with friends, family, and stay in-touch with my team. But, if I’m really saying how I feel about yet another Zoom meeting — I’m exhausted.
I’m definitely not the only one. Zoom fatigue is real. But why?
Why Are Video Calls So Draining?
Despite the convenience, Zoom meetings are actually more exhausting than in-person events. While the amount and intensity of the tired-feeling — it varies from one person to the next. The fatigue often occurs because you’re jumping from one call to another.
“When we’re on all these video calls all day long, we’re kind of chained to a screen,” said Suzanne Degges-White, a licensed counselor and chair of counseling and counselor education at Northern Illinois University.
“It’s just psychologically off-putting,” she said. “I’ve got to show up again but the thing is, we’re not really showing up anywhere.”
Additionally, video chats require more attention and energy than face-to-face interactions. Most notably, feeling pressured to be engaged “When you’re on a video conference, you know everybody’s looking at you; you are on stage, so here comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform,” explains Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University. “Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful.”
Another reason why? There’s a communication disconnect. “Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy,” states Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead (insead.edu.)
“Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not,” adds Petriglieri. “That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally.”
As if that weren’t enough, you may also be anxious about your appearance and children running in. There are also technical errors that may turn 30-minute catch-up into an hour-long event. You may also be tempted to multitask and pay attention to someone’s background instead of listening to them. And even a 1.2-second delay in responding online gives the impression that they aren’t as friendly or focused.
How to Handle Zoom Fatigue
1. Take a few moments before clicking “Start” to settle and ground your attention.
“Take a few breaths, feel your body on the chair, notice whatever is present in your mind, and allow yourself to arrive fully to the moment at hand,” recommends Steven Hickman, Psy.D. “If you’re feeling unsettled or preoccupied, you might place your hand on your heart in a supportive and comforting way as if to say ‘I’m here for you. It’s ok to feel how you feel at this moment.’”
2. Avoid scheduling back-to-back Zoom meetings.
Just like scheduling any other type of meeting, back-to-back Zoom events aren’t encouraged. I know that you might be want to squeeze in as many meetings that you can in a day. But, let’s be real here. Even though you could fit in 8-16 meetings per day, that’s just not feasible. After all, you need to eat, use the restroom, prep, follow-up, and attend to other tasks.
What’s more, your brain and eyes need to rest in-between sessions. So, make sure that you space your Zoom meetings spaced out. For example, if you have a video call from 1 PM to 2 PM, then your next one should take place at least a half an hour later.
3. A “zero break” schedule.
“Even if it felt like you had no breaks between meetings before the coronavirus—you did,” writes Elizabeth Grace Saunders. “To get from one room to another, you had at least a few minutes of physical movement and a quick mental break.” Of course, that’s not always the case with videoconferencing, as you can jump from one meeting to the next.
“This marginless schedule saps your mental batteries,” adds Elizabeth. “To avoid this issue, schedule your meetings with some short gaps in between, or make it a rule to wrap up one call 5-10 minutes before the next one begins.”
4. Reduce onscreen stimuli.
“Research shows that when you’re on video, you tend to spend the most time gazing at your own face,” recommends Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy over at HBR. “This can be easily avoided by hiding yourself from view.”
Unfortunately, “onscreen distractions go far beyond yourself.” For example, while on video, “we not only focus on other’s faces but we look at their backgrounds as well.” So, if “you’re on a call with five people, you may feel like you’re in five different rooms at once.” Besides looking at their faces, you also see “their furniture, plants, and wallpaper. You might even strain to see what books they have on their shelves.”
“The brain has to process all of these visual environmental cues at the same time,” explains Fosslien and West “To combat mental fatigue, encourage people to use plain backgrounds (e.g., a poster of a peaceful beach scene), or agree as a group to have everyone who is not talking turn off their video.
Another option? Select speaker view as opposed to the gallery. Now you’ll only be so that looking at the person who is talking instead of the entire group.
5. Use alternatives.
No disrespect to Zoom, but you don’t always have only to use the platform to communicate with others. I know that videoconferencing is all the rage. But, you can still pick-up the phone or shoot out an email. There are also instant messaging tools like Slack, Flock, Jabber, Troop Messenger, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts Chat.
6. Keep your home office and living area separate.
Because you’re working from home, it’s more challenging to have a separation between work and life. How can you turn off “work mode” when you’re spending all of your time in your workspace? Or, to put it more succinctly, have various zones in your home for the different parts of your life.
What if you don’t have a home office? “Change the lighting when you go ‘off-the-clock’ and change the playlist and ditch the coffee mug from your desk,” suggests Degges-White. “When you feel you’re working 24/7 and are unable to leave the office to see friends, having tricks to help you feel that there’s a boundary between work and play can be important.”
7. Say “no, thanks” or “some other time.”
Don’t feel pressured or guilty for declining a Zoom request. To be honest, we’re all getting a little tired of these video calls. So, if you’re upfront and honest about this, others will understand.
The caveat, though is that you must be understanding of others if they aren’t up for a Zoom meeting.
8. Be a professional.
Help others help you be setting an example by following some virtual meeting etiquette. After all, these vents can be much more tiring when participants do any of the following:
- Not being engaged in the meeting or multitasking, like looking at your phone or playing games.
- Eating or slurping your drink.
- Tapping your fingers or moving around in a squeaky chair.
- Not muting your mic when not talking. On the flipside, forgetting to unmute when it’s time to speak.
- Using a distracting background or being a faceless silhouette.
- Going to the bathroom.
- Not giving your housemates a head’s up — you don’t want them to pop-in unexpectedly.
- Failing to send out an agenda and having a moderator to keep the meeting on track.
Yes, you can take these few steps to lessen the tiring effects of numerous Zoom meetings so that you can handle things with a better style.