Zoom Fatigue is real. If you work largely from a laptop then it’s likely you have been thrown into a world of virtual meetings and working from home throughout this pandemic.
Zoom Fatigue is the exhaustion you feel from being in virtual meetings all day. It is very different to the office experience, even though we also work long days. There are notable differences even neuroscientists are acknowledging which make constant virtual presence particularly taxing.
So why is this?
Our laptops, even with mega fast internet and no delays at best still hold a fraction of a delay that our brain’s otherwise rely on to process the vast amounts of data that are coming towards it. This delay is causing our brains to work harder and therefore increasing our level of fatigue.
Humans are social creatures and we rely on cues such as body language, tonality and facial expressions to read a conversation. In fact, only 7% of communication is verbal. However, on video our view is limited and subtle details and full body gestures are hard to translate. Adding to the challenge of assessing our communicator. This means interviews become harder especially as they are likely the first time you are connecting to someone.
Our attention is also regularly experiencing acute distractions as we deal with different environments attendees are sharing. Pets, children, partners, room mates, parents, even the room lighting, decorations, deliveries, mess and clutter can all contribute to the distractions that we experience. This competition for our attention is like multi tasking, which we know to be ineffective. When you try to do too many things at once you do no-thing well.
In saying this, the new world of lockdown means that we are lacking real human connection more than ever. As such, showing your living space, as opposed to a white wall, does help create a more relatable human aspect. It can offer a good talking point and help humanise the experience.
Communication cues are also adapting to the world of online. Slight internet delays can mean a misinterpretation of natural pauses resulting in awkward interruption as both parties begin to speak. When we listen it is common to demonstrate understanding with verbal sounds like ‘mmm’, ‘oh’, aha’, ‘yes’, but online, this actually interrupts more than it encourages.
In group settings, unless you are directly involved in the discussion, and factoring how disruptive unintended noises are, participating as a group can feel challenging. You don’t want to interrupt the flow of a discussion with established party’s, and so it feels easier to stay silent and nod along and become the observer. Especially if the group setting is organised fun or a team building activity, it can feel more isolating than inclusive when the loudest personalities naturally dominate the conversation.
Add to this, the volume of meetings, all whilst still in a global pandemic it is, unsurprisingly tiresome. So how can you reduce Zoom Fatigue?
6 Tips to help you combat zoom fatigue in the workplace:
1. Schedule breaks not looking at a screen.
When you finish a virtual meeting, make a point of looking away from any type of screen at least 1 full minute. If you can, try and gaze out of a window and extend your vision to a distance beyond 1 metre, ideally 20 metres where possible. This will give your eyes a rest and help you refocus. If you can, go for a walk.
2. Request an agenda before your meetings.
A meeting with an agenda has more structure and is more likely to be efficient. By requesting an agenda, it could even discourage unnecessary meetings. Once you have obtained the agenda, see if you can effectively resolve the purpose with an email. When on the meeting, make a point of reconfirming the agenda at the beginning and then sticking to it. This will mean you are less likely to overrun and staying respectful of everyone’s time always bodes well for the relationship.
3. Agree a no-video policy, on occasion.
Yes, I understand if we were in the office we would be ready, but the reality is that we are not. We are tired and we are in the middle of a pandemic. It is hard right now. Let’s just be okay with no camera for certain meetings and normalise respecting people’s need for privacy. If you must have the video on, most platforms enable you to hide your own image, which can be helpful sometimes.
4. Fuel your body well.
Fatigue can come from an excess use of energy, but also a lack of energy in the first place. Making sure you are eating and fuelling your body is key to replenish your energy and not experiencing unnecessary early fatigue.
5. Stay hydrated.
(Sorry, Coffee, I’m not talking about you. Just because you come in liquid form, I know you’re deceiving!) Drink. More. Water.
6. Say NO to non-essential meetings.
Flex that boundary muscle and say no to non-essential meetings. Feel like you can’t say no? Try this script; ‘Thank you for your invitation. I’m trying to prioritise essential meetings today and the agenda doesn’t seem to require my presence. Unless I missed something, I will decline this meeting this time, though please feel free to include me in the follow up and flag any actions. If you require any updates beforehand, I can send them to you within the hour. Let me know.’. Feel free to edit as needed.