You’ve just had lunch, you’re feeling sleepy, and you check your calendar: A full afternoon of meetings, and in 2021 that can mean only one thing—Zoom.
That crushing feeling of dread and the slow, steady onset of cranial pain you’re experiencing is known colloquially as “Zoom Fatigue”, and no home-officing employee is safe.
Zoom isn’t all bad. For many of us, it’s allowed us to keep working, running our businesses, and speaking to friends and relatives. It’s kept us, in a strange way, “face to face.” But benefits aside, Zoom Fatigue is real and everyone’s feeling it.
In this article, we’re going to look at why video meetings are so exhausting and what we can do to make them a little better.
Why do Zoom meetings make us SO tired?
Novelty. New things are exciting but they’re also mentally draining. Zoom meetings went from something we did very occasionally, to a daily (=hourly) occurrence in our own homes. Our jobs, quite literally, depend on it. Our brains need time to adjust to new stuff and it can be a shock to the neurological system when that newness is ubiquitous.
Zoom Fatigue goes by another name: ‘Concentration Fatigue’ because concentration is usually the first thing to suffer when we’re faced with this many stressors, this much stimuli, this much Zoom.
So, what can we do about it?
7 ways to combat Zoom Fatigue
1. Don’t have a meeting (seriously)
Even in the office, meetings weren’t everybody’s favorite thing. There’s that joke—funny because it’s true—of “having meetings about meetings”. Before creating that calendar invite, take a second and think of other ways that you could conduct your meetings. Email, Slack, voice message, or old-fashioned telephony are all viable alternatives.
If you’re not the organizer of a meeting, ask yourself (or others) whether you really need to attend. Often, people are invited to meetings out of habit, courtesy, or confusion. If your presence isn’t essential don’t go to the meeting.
2. Keep it simple
A lot of companies used to operate a “no laptop” policy during in-person meetings—the olden time were simpler times! Obviously, that’s impossible today, but we should still take the spirit of “no laptop” to heart. A Zoom meeting is dense with stimuli: in a large meeting you’re presented with a grid of faces all moving around and your brain is going to want to analyze each of these.
Instead, try to focus on one person, ideally the speaker, rather than scanning the grid and trying to read expressions, moods, or just being nosy about what’s going on in their “backgrounds”. Use the “speaker” display option instead of the “grid”—the former will show you a large screen of the speaker, making it easier to concentrate.
Like during in-person meetings, avoid tabbing between Zoom and your browser, keep your phone on silent and out of reach, and turn off desktop notifications for email, Slack, and WhatsApp. Remember, everyone knows what you’re doing when you keep flicking your eyes to the top right corner of your screen.
3. Ensure your tech works
This one’s tricky because our online meetings are only as good as our tools, but make sure the audio and visual quality as high as possible. To keep things running smoothly, turn off any heavy-duty programs or software.
Two things to always keep in mind during a Zoom call are lighting and sound. Now, we don’t expect anyone to go out and buy a ring light (although they do make your eyes look amazing) but it’s offputting if you’re in near darkness. Natural light is your friend or just turn on the lights you need during the call. Speak clearly, at a good volume, and fairly near your phone or laptop. If you have a mic, use it.
If possible, test out your tech before your meeting—instant frustration ensues if a participant has to mess around with settings or hardware once the meeting is in full swing.
4. Change positions
Use a Zoom call as an excuse to get up and move about. Try taking meetings standing up. Being upright has two effects: 1) you’ll have the chance to move your body and gesticulate more effectively than if you were sat down and 2) meetings where everyone stands are shorter because people tire and want to sit down. “Stand-up meetings” are done on both legs for brevity’s sake. Take it a step further, and walk around during meetings and calls. Moving about will energize you and keep you focused.
5. Give yourself a break
Back-to-back meetings might look impressive in the calendar, but they really can take a mental and physical toll. It’s not effective or efficient to jump from one meeting to the next with no break in-between. Although we used to take back-to-back meetings when we were in the office, the number has surely increased now we’re at home and doing everything through Zoom.
If you do take a break, try and stay away from the phone and the laptop—stretch, meditate, prepare dinner, take a walk, load the washing machine.
6. Pick up the phone instead
People don’t seem to like phone calls these days: who answers a call from an unknown number anymore? Sometimes though, a short and concise phone call can have everything sorted out in a few minutes.
One major benefit is that calls tend to be a 1:1 affair, so you bypass all of the technical difficulties and all the human problems of having lots of people all trying to be heard and understood at the same time. If you really prefer not to call, sending voice messages back and forth on a messaging app can be almost as effective.
7. Zoom wisely
No doubt large-scale surveys and reports on the impact of Zoom meetings are forthcoming, but it seems fair to assume that things like entirely-online conferences, all-day workshops, work social events, and “away” days are more stressful and more tiring than the in-person equivalents.
As we’ve discussed, extended Zoom use also requires lots of breaks, changes of scenery, and good tech, so keep all these factors in mind if you’re the one planning events that need a lot of Zoom time. One-day conference? Try and slip it over two days instead. What might seem like an inconvenience at first will probably lead to increased participation, raised morale, and effective outcomes.
Stress and frustration can build up and might impact your team’s mental well-being. Help your employees navigate and thrive during the “new normal” and future-proof your business by offering expert mental health support to all of your employees. It’s good to talk, so schedule a quick demo today.