You may have noticed: There’s a special kind of tiredness that comes from a day of Zoom calls, even though they can take place without you ever leaving your couch (or your loungewear). More strangely, this fatigue can hit even after meetings with co-workers you love and friends you miss very much.
So why are we finding a day of Zoom calls so mentally draining? In part, it’s because we see another person, and so we have the experience of presence, yet we lack all the body language, all the signals we are used to processing unconsciously. Our brain needs to make an extra effort to compensate for all those aspects of communication we lack, and that’s pretty tiring.
During a video call, we’re forced to focus more intently on conversations in a bid to absorb information. When we’re sat in a conference room, we can rely on hushed side exchanges if we get distracted. But on a video call, it’s near impossible to do this unless you use the private chat feature or awkwardly unmute yourself to ask a colleague to repeat themselves.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that video calls make it easier to lose focus. We’ve all been there. Why of course we can all listen intently, check our emails, message a friend and drop an emoji on slack all within the same 30 second window. In reality though, we can’t do much listening when we’re this distracted. Intensifying things is our work from home situations. It’s no longer just dialling into one or two virtual meetings here and there. The abundance of virtual meetings can prove to be challenging for those who share their space with loved ones.
This level of fatigue relates to how we process information over video. When we’re on a video call, the only way to show that we’re paying attention is to look at the camera. In real life, would you usually walk up to a colleague and stare at their face? Probably not. Engaging in a “constant stare” makes us uncomfortable — and tired. In person, we use our peripheral vision to glance out the window or look at others in the room. However, on a video call, because we are all sitting in different homes, if we turn to look out the window, it might seem like we’re not paying attention. Not to mention, we’re all staring at a small window of ourselves, making us hyper-aware of every wrinkle, expression, and how it might be interpreted. Without the visual breaks we need to refocus, our brains grow fatigued.
Here are 4 tips to help you avoid zoom fatigue.
The next time you’re on a video chat, close any tabs or programs that might distract you (e.g. your inbox or Slack), put your phone away, and be present. It’s tempting but try to remind yourself that the Slack message you just got can wait 15 minutes, and that you’ll be able to draft a better response when you’re not also on a video chat.
Take a break
Take mini breaks from video during longer calls by minimizing the window, moving it to behind your open applications, or just looking away from your computer completely for a short burst of time. Your colleagues probably understand more than you think! You can listen without staring at the screen for a full thirty minutes. Let your eyes rest every now and again.
Social Events: Optional
After a day of non-stop video calls, it’s normal to feel drained, particularly if you’re an introvert. Social sessions should be opt-in. Let people know they are welcome to join in but not obligated.
Zoomed-Out: Phone Call or Email Instead
If the fatigue is getting to you but your day isn’t quite over yet, switch to a phone call or suggest picking up the conversation later so you can both recharge. Try something like, “I’d love a break from video calls. Do you mind if we do this over the phone?” Most likely the other person will be relieved by the switch, too.
Make video calls easier by taking these steps to prevent you feeling so exhausted at the thought of another video chat.
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