What Is Zoom Fatigue – How To Manage It?

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The pandemic has upended Zoe and Zelda’s lives. These two sisters, who both work for MNCs, have yet to adjust to their permanent work-from-home lifestyle. Zoe found herself too burnt out to attend their weekly family video calls. On the contrary, Zelda missed her daughter’s talent show at her school and her son’s 100m race because she was too tired! What these sisters are going through is called “Zoom Fatigue” – the feeling of persistent tiredness because of attending way too many video calls throughout the workweek.

Other symptoms that indicate an onset of zoom fatigue:

  • Constantly irritated or sore eyes, accompanied by a sudden onset of eye pain
  • A sudden spike in tears or blinking
  • Difficulty in transitioning into video meetings and back into work after a video call ends, due to a persistent lack of focus
  • The sudden increase in levels of frustration or a sense of not being heard during a video call
  • General exhaustion due to persistent tech issues (hardware/software/internet) or a high frequency of video calls.

This article will examine exactly how fatigue sets after several video calls and discuss solutions to “zoom” fatigue.

What is Zoom fatigue?

A feeling of worry, chronic tiredness, and general burnout are results of the overuse of virtual communication. People indulging in long workdays with consecutive video calls/meetings also report zoom fatigue symptoms like a sore butt, throbbing eyes, and general exhaustion too.

While other companies also offer video conferencing solutions, Zoom’s solution was simple and quickly became a de-facto platform for virtual meetings during the pandemic.

Thus, fatigue and accompanying symptoms came to be collectively called “Zoom fatigue”.

Why zoom fatigue is so exhausting?

Now that we know what is Zoom fatigue and how it creeps into our work and personal lives, let’s go a level deeper to understand the physical ramifications of extended screen hours.

1.Your brain is working more to process non-verbal and visual cues

In a face-to-face meeting, we can easily notice and assess the non-verbal cues – facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, posture, and more. All these signals not only tell us about the intent of the speaker, but also the statement’s credibility. 

We need these signals to prepare a response appropriate to the listener’s current state. 

zoom fatigue
Wikimedia Commons

Noticing such signals over video calls becomes a separate task to manage in addition to your work. Your brains have to exert additional cognitive and emotional effort. 

All of this happens inside our brains in a span of milliseconds. While working from home, our brain is already overloaded trying to manage multiple tasks and cues from the home environment.

Putting all these reasons in context, it’s easy to understand why frequent video calls contribute to zoom fatigue.

2. You are moving less

According to a paper in the Journal of Sports Medicine in 2006, physical activity makes you about 40% less likely to develop fatigue.

In a permanent WFH scenario, you are not moving much beyond the boundaries of your house. Sometimes you try to minimize even that so you can avoid disturbances and concentrate better. 

Your body is essentially ground to a halt unless you do something about it!

3. Anxiety when your two worlds get intertwined

Did I forget to clean my face after lunch?

Have I accidentally dropped some ketchup on the camera and forget to wipe it?

What if everyone sees how messy my bedroom is?

Or what if…

zoom fatigue

The blurring of boundaries between our work and personal lives gives rise to all such anxieties. Fatigue is born out of constantly having to stay on guard all the time!

4. Physical boundaries are blurred

In a company office, every designated room had a meaning.

Your home office has eroded the boundary between office and home due to the protracted timeline of the pandemic. The cognitive scaffold effect of our physical office either is lost.

Snack breaks and water-cooler chats were the sources of in-office camaraderie. That social connection is lost.

It’s the perfect environment for zoom fatigue to set in!

5. Compromising on the duration or quality of your sleep

When I was struggling with insomnia, my doctor shared an image of sleep hygiene with me. One of the components of good sleep hygiene is using the bed for only sleep and other recreational activities. That means not working or eating on the same bed as you sleep. 

zoom fatigue
RestedLife.com

So you might not be able to sleep well if you are constantly violating rules of good sleep hygiene – and that adds to the fatigue.

Why are you so exhausted after a week full of video calls? (Hint: It’s Zoom fatigue)

Now that we know what is zoom fatigue, let’s understand the causes of zoom fatigue.

1. It puts social pressure to be always “on”

One of the possible reasons for zoom fatigue is that in a call with all cameras switched on, turning off the camera might signal non-attention or, worse, a lower commitment. 

In a virtual meeting, it’s difficult to determine what the person is doing if they are not looking directly at the camera. You seem like someone who is less serious about work. This is a different kind of social pressure and it can be truly exhausting over the long term.

2. The transition from home to work is complicated

Let’s face it – only a few are lucky enough to have a separate room to work out of at home. So you would have to get out of a “home environment” and get into a “work environment” before joining a video call. 

This includes tidying up everything the camera can see – your work area, your background, and even your look. Then there is disturbance from your family, housemates, and even your pet(s) to worry about!

3. Some managers abuse video conferencing facilities

Some managers tend to have all conversations over video calls because it assures managers of 100% commitment from their subordinates. 

Emails to share information (FYI emails), emails asking for your opinion on a project starting next month – all those become video calls. Some managers even schedule team lunches over video calls. 

Such poor regulation of screen time creates the breeding ground for zoom fatigue!

4. Overuse video calls in your personal life

You can’t just visit your extended family living just a few blocks away for dinner! You have to gather your corona gear and arm yourself with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and the likes. 

After a long workday, the chances of yet another video call is equally high.  

Even outside of work, we have to rely on video calls to communicate with our loved ones!

Tips to manage zoom fatigue

Things like a night of good sleep, some exercise, and maybe some vitamins are enough to stave off the general fatigue. The solutions to Zoom fatigue, however, are different and they start with the regulation of screen time over video calls.

1. Have shorter, better-planned meetings

Have you ever had more than 2 back-to-back video meetings?

Yeah, stop having those. 

Anyone scheduling the meetings will see your online calendar and simply shove their meeting. 

To stop them from doing so, add some placeholder events in between meetings when you are reviewing your daily calendar. Reserve this slot as non-screen time. Name these placeholder events around the projects you are working on or just call them “video call break”. 

This modified version of your calendar will let everyone schedule their meetings around it.  

Also, insist on shorter meetings as a team policy. Everyone’s aware of Zoom fatigue by now; it’s the right time for a high-level conversation about it.

2. Explore how many meetings can you convert into phone calls

Not everything needs to be on video. Some conversations between only two people, not involving the whole team, can happen over calls. Calls that tend to repeat at a certain time every week can become voice calls.

3. Use virtual backgrounds and use gallery view sparingly

Part of the reason zoom fatigue becomes so extreme is that we have to look at the same people and the same background repeatedly. 

Virtual backgrounds that Skype or Zoom offer break this visual monotony in the gallery view where all speakers are visible. Just make sure your whole team uses a single background so it looks like everyone is in the same room.

When a single speaker speaks at one time, switch to the active speaker view to reduce the visual stimuli your brain consumes.

4. Asynchronous videos for zoom fatigue

If you work in sales, constant video calls will tire you and your prospects out. 

In that scenario, asynchronous videos in emails necessary to minimize zoom fatigue for your prospects. 

When the videos become asynchronous (pre-recorded), you have control of how fast and how long it plays for. Pre-recorded videos are like emails – you can view them at any time of the day and anyplace in your house. You can also watch them multiple times to review the content of the video message. 

There will be no problem with background noise and pets/kids walking in either; you can edit those out. 

The best part about asynchronous videos? There is no scheduling required before the call!

With Hippo Video, salespeople can 

  • record a single video and personalize it for multiple prospects
  • share videos seamless with prospects without changing interfaces
  • track engagement on those videos to see how they are performing

Not only salespeople, but also account executives, sales trainers, and sales leaders can all enjoy the convenience and higher engagement of asynchronous video communication with Hippo Video.

5000+ customers from around the world, including Essilor, Freshworks, and Tailwind have benefited from our technology and accelerated their sales. 

Do you want to stop losing leads because you weren’t able to engage them enough? You can sign up for a free 7-day trial and start using our next-generation video sales platform today!

Navin is a Senior Content Marketer and Copywriter with a firm belief in the power of Growth Marketing. His specific interests include Writing, Personal Development, Health and Fitness, Tennis, American Politics, and Clean Energy (not necessarily in that order!). You can find him on Medium @Navin Prakash Israni.
Navin Israni

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