If you’ve been on a long road trip, you know how much of a relief it is to stop the car and walk around or switch drivers just to give your eyes – and your mind – a break.
The feeling of always being alert and engaged as a driver is similar to the situation that causes what’s known as “zoom fatigue” at work. Watching a screen for hours on end and engaging with others can be mentally and physically draining. Once you turn off your video, you are finally “off stage,” but likely a bit tired.
Here are some tips on avoiding zoom fatigue and make the work and study from home routine a bit more manageable.
What is zoom fatigue?
There is no official diagnosis for zoom fatigue, just a set of symptoms that are similar to situations when you’re tired or overwhelmed. For example, if you’ve had several video meetings back-to-back, you might feel tired in a way that’s similar to when you’ve just given a presentation and it’s finally over.
The constant engagement required by video meetings is the main reason for this fatigue. In an in-person meeting, you can interact with people in different ways, maybe get up for a cup of coffee or just look away from the speaker. There is often an expectation that everyone is “locked in” and has to look like they’re really engaging with and interested in what’s being said on video calls. It’s similar to being in a classroom when you’re concerned about the instructor calling on you if you aren’t paying strict attention.
The result is a heightened sense of awareness that’s difficult to keep up for long periods of time.
How can you alleviate zoom fatigue?
There are several ways to lessen the chance that you’ll have zoom fatigue:
Cut the camera in large meetings:
When you have several people in a meeting, only so many people can converse. You’ll likely find that one or two people do most of the talking while others chime in during designated times, or not at all.
If that’s the case, why does everyone have to be on camera for the entire meeting? In some cases, such as team get-togethers, it’s ideal to see everyone. Things like a virtual happy hour or a key announcement are great events to "see" your co-workers.
However, if you’re sitting in on a meeting so you can learn about what’s going on with a project but aren’t expected to speak, it’s best if the meeting organizer makes part of it video optional. Or, just shut off your video if someone else is presenting and sharing a screen, as there isn’t an expectation that you’re going to be part of the conversation. If you need to talk, you can put your video on. However, always make sure that this is appropriate for your classroom or work environment.
Talk without video:
There is no need to make every meeting a video call, especially if you know the participant(s) well.
Organizations or even individual teams often set a standard of whether they expect every meeting to be “video on.” If you are tired of having all meetings on video, then talk with your manager about seeing if you and the team can opt out sometimes.
It’s a nice break when you can take a call without worrying about your background, hair or clothes.
Use the phone:
You might startle someone who isn’t used to answering their phone during the workday, but give it a shot if you want to do a quick check-in! Calling someone can be liberating because you can walk around, look at other things inside or outside your home and possibly prepare a snack or meal during your discussion.
It sounds simple, but getting out of your seat to walk around and talk with someone can provide you with more energy and allow you to escape from the screen for a bit.
Have fewer meetings:
The work-from-home lifestyle and social distancing rules while at work should have helped us wean ourselves away from excess meetings. If not, give it a try now!
After all, we have Slack, Teams chat and many other tools in addition to email that can provide instant feedback. You don't have to go through the trouble of scheduling a meeting, linking to a platform and turning on your camera to be productive.
Finally, make sure you give yourself a break, whether it’s scheduling a 15-minute snack and walk around the room or an hour-long lunch break and a long walk or run. The year has been stressful enough – it’s time for more self-care and fewer hours in front of a screen!