5 Ways to Combat Zoom Fatigue

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Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Friday, September 25, 2020

Working remotely means more reliance on technology. And while video call tools are a great way to stay connected with colleagues and clients, they could also be damaging your productivity.

Article 5 Minutes

Web and video conferencing tools saw a 500% increase in buyer activity in 2020 as a result of Coronavirus. In particular, Zoom was thrust into the limelight when the pandemic forced huge numbers of professionals to start working remotely.

The platform saw a 2,900% increase in daily active users in the first four months of the year because the tool became a crutch for professionals and businesses alike who needed a way to communicate with their colleagues and clients and hold meetings with multiple attendees.

While many were very grateful for Zoom in the early stages of the pandemic, it didn't take long for the daily video conferencing to take its toll. Zoom fatigue became a real problem amongst workers and although this is a new phenomenon born during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s something that is likely to continue in the era of remote working.

What is Zoom fatigue and why does it happen?

Zoom fatigue is the mental exhaustion that professionals feel as a result of video conferencing, particularly when you're participating in multiple calls each day. This happens for a number of reasons:

  • Because your brain has to work harder to process the non-verbal cues over video
  • Because you’re hyper-aware of the image of yourself staring back at you on video calls - you become conscious of your appearance and setting
  • Because it feels like you have lots of eyes on you at all times - unlike in face-to-face meetings
  • Because it can be very easy to get distracted when on your laptop; you might start checking emails or working whilst also on a call
  • Because sometimes tech fails us and connections can be slow, sound can be distorted, or your computer or software could crash mid-call

It’s not just Zoom that can have this exhausting impact on workers, any video conferencing tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime can have the same effect.

5 ways to combat Zoom fatigue

There are several ways you can beat this type of mental fatigue and ensure you have more productive and enjoyable video conference calls in the future. These include:

1. Scheduling regular breaks

It’s a good idea to avoid scheduling long calls if you can. Around 25 to 50 minutes is probably the optimum time for a productive meeting (and for your attention span). That said, if you know you’ve got a longer video conference coming up, perhaps you're giving a presentation to a client or you're checking in with your team, then be sure to set some scheduled breaks.

Never go more than an hour without a break and set aside around 15 minutes to recharge. In this time, you should encourage all attendees to move away from their screens, perhaps make a drink, and maybe even go for a short walk. This can help refresh everyone’s minds ready to resume the meeting.

2. Try to have one day off a week

It’s entirely possible that you have multiple meetings with clients and colleagues every day, and that this must continue despite working remotely. But if this is the case, it’s a good idea to try and set aside just one day a week with no video conference calls. Perhaps mid-week will give you a nice break.

Otherwise, you could find yourself giving in to Zoom fatigue early on in the week and being ready to sleep your weekend away by the time Friday rolls around. If a whole day isn’t possible, then consider blocking out some half days to help keep you refreshed and avoid burnout.

3. Try to reduce distractions - and ask other attendees to do the same

Reduce the stimuli on your screen. This might mean shutting down apps and programs you're no longer using and avoiding any loud or distracting images as your laptop background. Similarly, you should try to reduce the distractions in your physical space and ask your clients or colleagues to do the same whilst on a video call.

This means having no TVs or radios on in the background, no pets wandering around, and avoiding cluttered or brightly decorated rooms for making your calls.

It might sound like a lot to ask, but consider this; if you're on a video call with six people all of which are in very busy settings, surrounded by objects and with their TVs on different channels, it could feel like you're in six different places at once. And this can be mentally draining.

So do your best to reduce these distractions and kindly ask all other attendees to do the same. In some cases, this might mean people having to mute themselves when they're not talking to shut out background noise.

4. Avoid multitasking as much as possible

Your colleagues or clients might be able to see your face on their screens and to all intents and purposes you're still part of the meeting, but it can be tempting to just minimize that window and catch up on a few other tasks. Maybe you’ve decided to check your emails, look through this month’s latest reports, or even aimlessly scroll through your Facebook page - it doesn't matter.

The point is you need to avoid trying to multitask as much as possible. Trying to focus on your video call as well as other tasks can quickly become tiring and it’s going to zap your focus and energy - which could make the conference call pointless anyway! So, concentrate on the task at hand and save those other tasks until later.

5. Say no to unnecessary video calls

We’ve all been guilty of setting up unnecessary meetings that could have just as easily been explained in an email. And you’ve probably also had to sit through a few of these pointless interactions while becoming increasingly frustrated that you're not back at your desk doing actual work! Well, the same rules apply to video conference calls too. If you think something could be easily discussed over the phone or via email, it’s OK to turn down a video call every now and then for the sake of your sanity.

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