Are you finding yourself absolutely drained after a day of Zoom meetings, even though you’ve barely left your desk chair? Yep, you can blame that on Zoom fatigue, and you’re far from the only one experiencing it.
This phenomenon is widespread as so many of us are continuing to work remotely and have virtual meetings on video conferencing platforms such as Zoom — with the same, if not more, number of meetings. Working from home and having meetings online are both parts of our new normal — but it’s certainly not all smooth sailing. In many cases, it’s far from it!
What is Zoom Fatigue?
“Zoom fatigue has been coined recently to describe the physical, cognitive and emotional drain that we have from video conferencing compared to face-to-face meetings,” says Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Derickson, MSW, LCSW, who specializes in mental health at work. She says symptoms include fatigue, an increase in job stress, feelings of burnout, sore eyes, and decreased concentration levels.
Looking at the number of people who are using video meetings these days, it’s no surprise that “Zoom fatigue” has become a part of our vocabulary. According to Derickson, about 300 million people attended a video conferencing meeting in the month of April 2020, when remote work became a full-fledged phenomenon, compared to 10 million at the end of 2019, pre-COVID.
“When we are in numerous video conferences all day, our attention is set to a small screen with a much different sensory input. We are having to process information differently without the benefit of verbal cues and real-time feedback,” Derickson says. “If you think about a face-to-face meeting, we are able to zone out for a minute, notice a picture on the wall, and be annoyed by your co-worker clicking their pen and still attend to the speaker. In some ways, those small distractions give our brains time to adjust and refocus. We don’t have the same sensory processing in video conferencing.”
So, how are we supposed to cope with Zoom fatigue and everything that comes along with it? Here are seven tips.
How to Cure Zoom Fatigue
1. Schedule in breaks
The same way that you schedule your meetings, you can schedule in your breaks. You can even mark your calendar as busy during these times to make sure nobody tries to schedule a meeting with you during this time. Can you have 8 back-to-back meetings? Sure. Should you? Probably not. Dr. Rachel O’Neill reminds us that we need time to eat, breathe, move, and attend to basic biological needs. If there is a risk of Zoom overload, she suggests trying to intentionally schedule a lunch break and a few 15-20 minute breaks throughout the day. Taking breaks can help boost your productivity, and when constant Zoom calls are the norm, it’s even more important to take breaks so you have some peaceful time to yourself to regroup. Derickson recommends standing up or going for a walk on your breaks to switch things up.
2. Limit the number of zoom calls
Are there some meetings on your calendar that you just know could be an email? Maybe some of your meeting topics will suffice over the phone instead of a video. Or, maybe a Slack group chat would do the trick. Luckily, there are multiple ways to communicate with coworkers, and video doesn’t have to be the only way you get things done. Even just knocking one Zoom call off your schedule and switching to one of these methods can help you feel a little less exhausted throughout the day.
3. Make your video calls shorter and smaller
According to Derickson, scheduling meetings that are shorter and have fewer people can decrease video conferencing fatigue. If you’re the organizer of a meeting, schedule only a short period of time for it so that the meeting will be succinct and won’t drag on. You can even send over an agenda and key points beforehand to save some time, too. Additionally, limiting the number of people on the call can make it less stressful, and not to mention, keep the technical difficulties, lags, and people talking over each other to a minimum. Only invite those who truly need to attend the meeting.
4. Avoid multitasking
Derickson says you should avoid multitasking while you’re in a Zoom meeting. “While we are able to have different levels of attention in a wider environment, that skill doesn’t translate to attending to multiple tasks in a smaller sensory environment,” she says.
Multitasking during a video call can make you feel even more tired, and while you might think you’re being an all-star employee and getting more done, you might be burning yourself out and further contributing to your Zoom fatigue.
5. Try out different views
If you’re only using the grid view on your calls, try switching it up. Using speaker view instead may help relieve some of your Zoom fatigue by making it easier to pay attention only to the person who’s talking, instead of letting your eyes wander around to everyone else and their very interesting home offices. You can also experiment with hiding your own video so you won’t be staring at yourself the whole time (let’s be real, we’ve all done it). Dr. O’Neill also recommends getting creative with backgrounds. She notes: “it isn’t the most exciting thing ever, but Zoom backgrounds can be a fun way to liven up a meeting. Get creative with your background and challenge your colleagues to do the same.”
6. Make time for screen-free hobbies
Outside of work, spend plenty of time without your screens. Spending more time on your phone and computer, even if not for work — catching up on the news or email — can also contribute to screen fatigue. Derickson says you should find activities that help you decompress, and that you should also watch your social media usage and take breaks from platforms if you need to. After 6 hours of zoom meetings, the last thing you should do is turn to your phone to scroll social media for 8 hours. Try to give yourself some structured screen-free time.
O’Neill notes the importance of getting outside, too. She adds: “Whenever you can do so, try to get outside. Even if it is for 5-10 minutes. Fresh air and natural light can help cure some of that zoom fatigue.”
7. Take a mental health day
Really feel like your mental health is taking a hit? It might be time to take a mental health day, or, a personal day where you take off to focus on your mental health. During this day off, make sure you prioritize self-care, completely unplug from work, and take some time off from your screens.
Zoom fatigue probably isn’t going away and can’t exactly be cured overnight. It’s going to take some effort to combat it and mitigate the effects. As the corporate workforce continues to be predominantly remote and virtual meetings remain the norm, we need to find new ways to adapt. Following these tips might help, but if you’re experiencing continual burnout due to work, online therapy might help.