Did you ever shut down your laptop at the end of the day and feel completely drained of your energy? Or perhaps after having a few virtual meetings in a day, do you feel like you have no other choice but to cancel or reschedule as you feel depleted? You could be suffering from Zoom fatigue.
Let’s understand virtual exhaustion better and say goodbye to Zoom fatigue in 2022.
What’s Zoom fatigue?
Zoom fatigue is, as the name suggests: the exhaustion caused by being on Zoom and other video conferencing platforms for extended periods.
As the pandemic began and we were in self-isolation, it brought alternate ways to communicate with our friends and family, and as Covid-19 halted many business operations, we needed new ways to function professionally.
Zoom and many other platforms took center stage, bridging the gap between people and business.
What causes Zoom fatigue?
What started as a solution to a rapidly evolving world turned into what we now see as Zoom fatigue.
But it doesn’t just stop with Zoom. This fatigue spreads across the board, with many platforms draining the body and mind.
Krystal Jagoo, MSW, RSW mental health counselor, says in Healthline that it is caused by the “increased cognitive demands of video conferencing communication”.
Who coined Zoom fatigue?
Eric Yuan, the man who founded Zoom, claims that he suffered from what has been coined Zoom Fatigue. The Times reported that Yuan once had 19 video call meetings back to back.
While we may or may not have 19 meetings back to back, we all can relate to the burnout feeling experienced post-videoconferencing throughout the day.
Is Zoom fatigue real?
Zoom fatigue is very real, and it has been backed by science to prove it.
Stanford University published their first peer-reviewed article, and here is what they found:
Our brains tell us that we may be in danger
While in-person interactions light up the brain, indicating happiness, virtual communication, particularly videoconferencing, triggers the part of the brain that makes us feel threatened.
This results from the headshot-like image that we see when we are on a video call, making people seem closer than they usually would be in person.
Founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Jeremy Bailenson, says in the New York Times, “From an evolutionary standpoint, if somebody was very close to you and staring right at you, this meant you were going to mate or get in a fight.”
We are connecting less
While we may constantly be in virtual communication with a slew of colleagues, friends, and family, the level we connect to others is lower.
Simple glitches such as lagging audio or internet problems mid-conversation also contribute to the disconnect.
In general, the lack of direct eye contact lowers levels of relatability to others.
Our brains are working overtime
The fact that we don’t have the nonverbal cues and signifiers that we would have in-person means the brain needs to work harder with more cognitive effort to decipher the overall communication.
Before, we could rely on body language, eye contact, and hand gestures to help us make sense of interactions.
With Zoom and video conferencing in general, we are restricted to viewing headshots, leaving many a blank space for the brain to fill.
Some people may enjoy looking at themselves, and others find this mentally draining.
According to Stanford University, mirror anxiety stemming from body image anxiety can be overwhelming and stressful, particularly for women.
The “hyper gaze”
The fact that people are all looking into their cameras at the same time can give the illusion that everyone is staring directly at you, even when they are not.
You may feel pressured to smile continually while you are on the call, making people feel very intimated and could be responsible for causing stress when interacting virtually.
Zoom fatigue and mental health
Dr. Brian Wind, the co-chair of the American Psychological Association, was quoted in Health.com saying: “When we interact with people face to face, we’re not only listening to their voices and looking at their faces—we’re picking up on social cues, like hand movements, body movements, and even a person’s energy.”
Spending time on video calls means that the brain needs to work extra hard to process new social cues that the brain is not used to yet.
“This places stress on the mind and uses up a lot of energy, which is why you might feel exhausted or stressed after a long Zoom call,” explains Dr. Wind.
In-person interactions don’t require us to see ourselves at every engagement; meanwhile, virtual communication may.
The experience of seeing ourselves on screen can cause some people to feel highly anxious. In this particular case, it has been dubbed mirror anxiety.
Diana Concannon, psychologist, and dean of the California School of Forensic Studies at Alliant International University explains this to Health.com: “This [experience of seeing ourselves on screen] creates a feeling of being on stage and is often accompanied by a compulsion to perform, which also requires more energy than a simple interaction.”
What does Zoom fatigue feel like? Symptoms and signs
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Reduced productivity or work performance
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty being present
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Muscle tension
How to avoid Zoom fatigue in 2022
Since video calling is the epitome of the new normal, lessening the effects of Zoom fatigue in 2022 is imperative to good health.
Here are 8 tips to help you avoid Zoom fatigue in 2022:
- Prioritise your time
As much as some meetings, calls, or classes may require your attendance, others may not. If you are suffering from brain fog and feel like you won’t give your full attention, allow yourself to miss a call when you must.
Take advantage of features like on-demand content, where possible, and catch up later.
If that is not possible, try to take some screen breaks in-between video calls. Stretch your legs, sit in the sun or spend time in the garden for a bit of change of scenery.
- Create a pre-meeting ritual
Try to prepare yourself mentally by taking a few deep breaths, clearing your space, and going over any points you may need for your meeting or call. This will help you feel prepared for what’s about to come and could help you ease into your video conference.
- Turn off your camera
While this may not be possible for every video call or meeting, we recommend that you turn off your camera if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Some meetings may require your attendance, but not necessarily your engagement. Use functions such as chat and Q&A to engage in ways that may not need your camera.
- Take short breaks in between
Before the pandemic, we would move from the office to the conference room, water station, and kitchen. Those brief moments helped you to process what has just taken place.
Take a few moments between calls to stretch, grab a glass of water and debrief.
- Resist the urge to multitask
As tempting as it may be to do multiple tasks while simultaneously joining a video call, class, or meeting, doing so means that your brain is exerting extra mental energy, which could cause you to feel fatigued by the time you’re done.
Remove other distractions, such as your phone, and only keep the necessary tabs open.
- Set boundaries
As far as possible, set some boundaries for yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed, let people in your team or friends and family know so that you can lower the amount of time you spend on video calls.
- Instead of “gallery view,” set your video call to “speaker view”
Suppose you are feeling anxious by the number of people on a call, set your video call to “speaker view” so that you can only see one person at a time. This will also curb the effects of mirror anxiety.
- Use virtual backgrounds
Virtual backgrounds can lighten the mood and help to make your video calls feel less serious. Even if you are having a meeting, virtual backgrounds can be a great way to break the ice before diving into work matters.
How to support your team remotely as a manager
- Try not to schedule spontaneous meetings
We may never know the stress or anxiety people experience before joining a meeting. Many may not have extra rooms or office space at their homes and feel that their area is not professional enough.
This means that they may spend time and energy tidying up and preparing space before a meeting. Try to plan meetings well in advance to limit the mental strain and pressure that your team members may feel.
- Ask yourself: could this meeting be an email?
As funny as those memes may have been, there is some truth to it.
If something needs to be discussed, consider the other communication channels – email, voice calls, or audio messages.
Business communication software like Slack offers the option to huddle or virtually meet in a room without the camera-on pressure.
This alternative is less intrusive than calls, with the added benefit of communicating in real-time.
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