Zoom fatigue has become increasingly common as most of us are learning or studying from home. Read on to learn about the causes of Zoom fatigue and how to combat it.
What is Zoom fatigue?
Zoom fatigue is a feeling of exhaustion or burnout brought on by excessive presence on video calls. Digital fatigue is caused by looking at a screen for too long.
Why are we so exhausted if we’re just sitting at home?
As pointed out in an article by Harvard Business Review, our behaviour on Zoom calls has a significant impact on our ability to focus and can decrease our energy level throughout our day. How? There are several behaviours that hinder us from maintaining our energy.
Causes of Zoom Fatigue
1. The Narcissus Effect
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter known for his beauty. However, he stared at his reflection in a pool so intently that he fell in and drowned, and thus came the term narcissism. In today’s virtual landscape, we are subject to staring at ourselves more often when making video calls. This is because the brain directs attention towards our own face and becomes hyperaware of every facial expression or even the position of our head! We become hyper-aware of everything about our appearance, including our own expression and posture… and that’s exhausting. According to this Insider article, it may even be more tiring than face to face interaction.
2. Eye Contact Blues
Having an up-close and personal angle of your co-worker, day in and out is probably not what you were expecting of 2020. For the first time, you realize the colour of their eyes… no? Just us? Nonetheless, to appear focused, you’re probably giving more eye contact than ever before. Without the subtleties of conference room windows, looking away from the screen might make you seem distracted. Check out this person who got quite creative with ways to stay engaged during video calls, and even fake eye contact. Let’s be honest: eye contact is tiring, and for such extended periods is more than we are programmed to take!
3. Virtual Tripping
Being on calls with multiple people simulates presence in multiple rooms and environments – the brain not only analyses the person but everything in their background. You might find yourself staring at a piece of furniture or attempting to identify the book behind them, even if you’re barely conscious of it. This distraction and over–stimulation can be harmful to your ability to focus. This article from the New Hampshire Business Review outlines how to reduce distractions in the background of your calls to combat short attention spans.
4. Tab Surfing
We’ve all done it – checked our email during a meeting, responded to a Slack message, or clicked out of the agenda to the newest notification. Even if you can do it all within 60 seconds, these spurts of distraction are detrimental to our ability to focus, especially during long meetings.
Zoom fatigue recovery
Have you caught yourself in these behaviours too? Have you also been feeling more tired than usual after months of remote work? Then it’s time to focus on recovery. Burnout, of any kind, is serious and can rapidly impair your mental and physical health.
Whether it’s taking a day (or two) off or recovering over the weekend – take a break from the screen. Focus on getting a good night’s sleep and eating healthily with energy-boosting foods like bananas, fatty fish, eggs, and apples. Limit your caffeine consumption and stop drinking after noon! You’ll be surprised at how lowering your caffeine intake can make even the occasional cup far more impactful.
It sounds obvious, but remains the most important – drink the recommended amount of daily water. Not only will it help you sleep, but hydration helps with aches, pains, and stiffness that come from sitting still all day.
Instead of vegging out on the couch, sit outside with a book, coffee, or even have a meal! Fresh air and sunshine are so regenerative for your mind and body and helps you relax and get the rest you need.
So, what can you do in the long run? Ultimately, you’ll probably still find yourself on Zoom for the next few weeks (or months), but here are some options to reduce that burnout feeling after a day of calls.
Preventing Zoom Fatigue
1. Take a break
And we mean a real break! Between calls, take 5 or 10 minutes to get up, stretch your legs, and stay away from the screen. Ideally, do a lap around your house or get some fresh air. It helps with focus and energy because endorphins are released when you exercise.
2. Opt for phone calls
When possible, propose a phone call instead of a video call. Sometimes, talking to someone without being aware of your appearance or eye contact etiquette helps you focus on what’s being said, even if you are making coffee at the same time.
3. Don’t multitask
But we just said take a phone call and make coffee!? We know. Ultimately, the less your brain must work on at once, the better. The inner motivation for efficiency might betray your focus in order to achieve multiple goals at once. And that’s your prerogative. But if you can slow down, you might find things take less time when worked on separately.
4. Track screen time
The time you’re logging on your screen after work might be pushing you over the edge into fatigue. Using your devices’ screen time settings can keep you accountable to spending no more than allotted amounts of time on social media. It also provides KPIs that you can use to decrease your screen time.
Calling on Leaders – this one’s for you
If you’re a team leader or in management, identifying and preventing burnout are crucial to the cohesion and productivity of your team. Implementing breaks or periods of no cameras on calls will be beneficial to the workflow and wellbeing of your team members.
While video socials are great for team culture, some employees might need time away from the screen, and that’s okay. Consider implementing walking meetings carried out over the phone or options that can be carried out via platforms like Slack or Teams over greater periods of time.
Role model the behaviour you want from your team. Set boundaries with your screen time and digital availability — this is key to maintaining similar work hours and patterns as pre-COVID-19. Encourage your employees to close their work email or messages outside of work hours. This can release your team from that itch to refresh or be ready for a sudden call.
We don’t know how long COVID-19 or working from home will last, and some companies are moving online until 2021 or permanently. It’s important to factor solutions to Zoom fatigue into your policies and procedures to prevent your employees from suffering from burnout. Keep reading some of our tips for remote work.
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