Zoom fatigue is the feeling of mental exhaustion caused by excessive video conferencing. Even though there are various video conferencing platforms, the skyrocketing popularity of Zoom during the pandemic has given this modern phenomenon the ubiquitous nickname of “Zoom Fatigue”.
Spending a day at home or in the office in front of a camera can be a very isolating and mentally draining experience. Our success as a species has relied on the human ability to socialize and collaborate face to face through verbal and non-verbal communication. According to Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford University, “In regular face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication is quite natural and each of us naturally makes and interprets gestures and nonverbal cues subconsciously. But in video chats, we have to work harder to send and receive signals.”
Let’s talk about a few steps we can take to minimize the effects of Zoom Fatigue and make the best use of remote work.
To ensure that your video meetings are productive and therefore will be shorter, reduce the distractions around you by silencing the notifications that are not at the top of your priority list. Turn off Slack & e-mail notifications, place your cell phone face down so you don’t see the light blinking, and put a note on your doorbell so the Amazon delivery person doesn’t ring your bell. While many might think that checking a phone or incoming work emails during a video conference is the perfect opportunity to maximize the use of their time, all it does is make them more likely to miss or forget important information. We know that doing one thing at a time is the answer to being more present therefore being more productive and getting off-camera that much faster.
We’ve all seen those memes that say something like, “this meeting could have been an e-mail.” We laugh but the truth is meetings that are too long are a waste of everyone’s time. Oftentimes we join a meeting, spend a bunch of time on chit-chat, someone shows up late and it’s 20 minutes before the meeting starts. This is unfair to those who were on time and also reduces the amount of work that can be accomplished in the scheduled time. It is important to have a published meeting agenda that is distributed ahead of time – and stick to it! Try using the parking lot structure strategy. When an off-topic subject comes up, park it for another time by adding it to a parking lot section on your agenda. This ensures that your meeting stays on topic and you don’t go over the time allotted for your meeting. Just as important as starting on time, so is ending on time.
It can be easy to overlook breaks when you’re home. There is an overlap of work and home life that can be a tricky balance. Make sure you are scheduling breaks just like you would in an office work setting. Place your breaks on your calendar – 5-10 minutes every hour. When you leave your computer, start a timer on your phone that will alert you when the time is up so you can return to your computer and get back to your work. By taking set breaks, you should find that you will be more focused when you return to your desk and this will increase your overall productivity. Make sure that during these breaks, you are moving your body and getting your blood flowing! Stretching, a short walk, a few stair climbs, and even loading and unloading the washing machine will get the blood flowing! Don’t forget hydration! Get yourself a reusable water bottle the size of your desired daily intake!
Turn Your Video Off or Use Hide Self View
The ability to see yourself during a meeting can be very distracting since we do not ever see ourselves during in-person meetings. Several platforms give you the option to hide your self-view. We suggest switching to that or turning your video off when allowed by the meeting organizer. If the platform doesn’t have that option or if your employer has a strict “video must be on” rule, try putting a sticky note over your face. Another great tip is to reduce the size of the Zoom screen so faces aren’t so large. Simply minimize the Zoom window, and place it up in a corner of your screen (close to the camera if possible). This reduces the amount of virtual eye-to-eye contact which will better mimic how you interact in a face-to-face meeting. Continuous direct eye contact is a very stressful thing for humans but it’s hard to avoid during video meetings. You can still periodically look at each face, but they aren’t all taking up your entire screen at all times.
Project Management Tools
Project management tools are used to plan, organize and allocate tasks. Using these tools can be helpful because, as we said earlier, multitasking has a huge impact on your ability to stay focused on important information. Using a project management tool also allows you the ability to stay on task because you can build your meeting agenda inside the tool. This can also be helpful to allocate assignments to your team post-meeting. Plus this will be a place to keep that ‘parking lot’ section to add to the agenda for future meetings. This will keep your meetings on task which will in turn lead to ending the meeting on time which will overall reduce the amount of time spent in your video conferencing meetings. An all-around positive when it comes to your mental health!
Always being “on” and alert while video conferencing is an enormous emotional effort and not natural for humans. Using these strategies will help you better navigate this brave new world of virtual work and video meetings! Recognizing and treating Zoom Fatigue is crucial to minimizing burnout. Prioritize reducing the impact before it builds.
Make your mental health a priority.