When the pandemic first hit I was setting up a few Zoom meetings each week to stay in touch with family and friends to help me practice work life integration. That was in addition to the 3-5 Zoom meetings I had each day while working from home. It got old - real fast. My weekly Sunday Night Zoom call with my family and grandparents went away after just a couple weeks. I haven't had a virtual happy hour with my friends in months. Zoom Fatigue is real. Many individuals are reporting more exhaustion at the end of the day, while working from home during the pandemic. I have also seen more and more articles pop up on social media with phrases like "Zoom Fatigue", "Zoom Burnout", and "Zoom Exhaustion". So why are Zoom (and other video conferencing platforms) so exhausting?
Why Zoom Calls Are So Exhausting
How many interruptions happen during the average Zoom call? Think about all the times you hear someone say "Sorry, I was on mute", a member of the call can't get their video and/or audio work, a toilet flushes during an oral argument in the Supreme Court, or the occasional 'Zoom Bombing' where someone comes in and hacks your call to display inappropriate or racist content.
Zoom calls are harder on us because they require so much more focus and attention than an in-person conversation. How many times have you decided to check your email while on a Zoom call or browse your LinkedIn newsfeed?
I struggle with is reading and showing body language. Non-verbal cues take a lot more energy to reproduce online, rather than in-person. Sometimes it is uncomfortable to talk with your hands or show non-verbal cues, especially if you don't have a great work from home set up.
Another challenge for me is if I miss something during a call I can't just lean over to the person next to me and ask them a question. I either have to chat them, which would cause me to miss what the person is currently discussing. Or I can unmute and awkwardly ask them to repeat it.
Crickets. No, not actual crickets, but the awkward silence that occasionally happens on the call. It's not just an awkward silence when it's virtual. You may start to think that the technology might not be working. It can cause a lot more anxiety.
Finally, your physical appearance plays a big factor into this Zoom Burnout. When the camera is on all the time you know everyone can see you, which causes even more anxiety and social pressure. You may find yourself looking at your own camera on the computer screen, which is normal, just like looking at yourself in the mirror. The constant gazing at a person's face via a computer screen makes me uncomfortable and tired.
Each time I see a friend or colleague online, that I'm used to seeing in person, it reminds me that I'm behind a computer screen and am unsure when I will be able to see them in-person again next.
How To Prevent Zoom Fatigue
Limiting your video calls is the easiest way to prevent Zoom Fatigue.
Turning on your camera should be optional. At the start of the pandemic my company had a rule that forced everyone on the call to turn on the video, but that has since been relaxed. Also, make your company social events opt-in so you aren't required to go. I only attend my weekly "Thirsty Thursday Virtual Happy Hour" call once or twice a month.
Use "speaker view" while on a Zoom call with a lot of people. This way you are focusing only on the person speaking, rather than trying to look at 20 different faces.
Avoid multitasking while on Zoom calls. It already takes a lot of effort to focus while on zoom calls so make sure that your don't add more of a burden to yourself by checking your email or performing other tasks.
Make any external meeting a phone call, rather than video. This helps split up my day between all my internal Zoom calls. I am also assuming it would be a nice change for the other person who is going through a similar Zoom Burnout!
Create breaks in between Zoom calls. I remember when we started using video calls more often I would schedule them back-to-back, just like I would with in-person meetings. That leads to Zoom Exhaustion very quickly. Try and schedule a little break in between in meeting. You can meditate or take a walk around the block. It's also a great time to practice your daily journaling.
Many of us are going through Zoom Exhaustion. Check in with your friends, family and colleagues. Make sure that there work life integration strategies are working. Maybe a call or text would be better than a video chat, for both you and them. Or, try the old fashioned way of writing a letter and mailing it. This shows how much you care about that person. I bet that would be the first handwritten letter they have received in a very long time.
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