5 Simple Ways to Combat Zoom Fatigue

Zoom fatigue is real. Here’s why and 5 simple ways to get some relief!

It’s been more than 6 months since we all unwittingly entered this bizarre social experiment of social distancing and our lives moved even more on-line. Video calls became the preferred, and sometimes only, way to stay connected to friends, family and work.

So why are they suddenly so exhausting? They were fun at first, right? Virtual family dinners and Zoom cocktails with friends. Seeing a glimpse into your colleagues’ homes and the inevitable interruption from someone’s cat or kid was novel and almost exciting. But now, most of us quite frankly need a break.

Here’s why you may be feeling Zoomed out:

Why is Easter Dinner in the bar?

Imagine if you walk into a bar and in the same space you talk with your manager, your parents, your friends, Easter dinner with family is set up in one corner of the bar, your work team meeting is happening in another, and happy hour game night in yet another. This is essentially what Zoom has created: a shared space where interactions from all parts of our life exist. No longer is there the natural separation of work and home, in-work and out-of-work, they all commingle in the same place. This creates a dissonance, and your mind still associates what is usually an enjoyable event with “work.”

It also means that we are “on” even more than we used to be. Social distancing has somehow made being social harder to avoid than ever. At a minimum, many of us feel more obligated to connect given our lack of physical closeness so we agree to more engagements than we might otherwise. We all know that prolonged screen time can add to our tiredness, but with social events moving on-line as well, we are taking less and less true downtime to recharge. No wonder we are all fried at the end of the day!

The abrupt loss of conversational cues

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“Can you hear me ok?” “Can you see my screen?” “Oh, I’m sorry, no, you go….”

In normal conversation, there is an ebb and flow that is created from multi-sensory input. Someone shifts in their seat to indicate they are about to jump in with a comment, silence can just be silence without panic that the audio has crashed, and someone leaning back in their chair to contemplate an interesting idea does not prompt an interrogation to see if their video has frozen. Even with the increased access and efficiency that technology brings to our lives, it is often one-dimensional. We have fewer cues to read our audience and interact in a natural way, and likewise may feel on stage when it is our turn to speak. This all adds up to extra work for your brain and ultimately fatigue.

Video calls require way more active attention

Like in any meeting, most of us are prone to multi-tasking. And if you miss an important detail while sitting in the conference room, you can lean over to a colleague and in hushed tones get caught up. Well, kiss that goodbye. Now with video meetings we are forced into a “constant gaze” not only to show that we are paying attention, but to actively absorb what is being said. And if you do happen to miss something, the chat feature, while helpful, will either inevitably send to “everyone” or you’ll eventually find the person you want to private chat and then miss yet another part of the meeting. And let’s face it, from constantly staring at the screen (and analyzing your own video) to actually having to pay full attention, it’s draining

How to combat Zoom zzzz’s….

We can likely all agree that we love and hate Zoom in equal measures most days. So how can you get some relief and recharge for the video calls that you really want to – or really have to – do?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Take breaks between calls to give your brain a chance to reset and relax
  • Limit after-hour zooms to only those you really want to do. We are far too into Covid-19 to still be accepting random Friday Zoom Happy Hours with friends of friends, just saying…
  • Remember that phrase, “another meeting that could have been an email?” Well, it’s time we revisit that. Can a Zoom meeting with your team be accomplished with a well written email? If so, try to mix it up.
  • Video optional? Although video helps us connect and somewhat recreate the feeling of being in-person, if you are feeling particularly fried, take a break from video.
  • Give yourself a Zoom detox and send some old-school hand written notes to friends and family. You’ll be surprised at how cathartic it is and how special it makes your likewise Zoom-fatigued recipient feel!

Zoom and other video meeting platforms have changed our lives, and in many ways for the better. But some days we all need a limit. If Zoom if becoming a source of your fatigue, it’s important to practice some digital self-care and give your brain a break!