Since sheltering in place began back in March, I have noticed that my coaching clients have been sharing that they are feeling more tired, more anxious, and more stressed while attending meetings from home. I got curious and wanted to better understand why, collectively, we are feeling so impacted by attending meetings via online platforms like Zoom, UberConference, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime, Google Meet and WebEx. I kept coming across the term “Zoom Fatigue” which describes that feeling of tiredness, anxiousness or increased worry we feel when faced with yet another video call.
Video conferences are exhausting and I’m happy to help provide some ways to feel less drained…
While on these calls, we actually work harder to process the nonverbal cues that we typically rely upon during in-person conversations. Things like eye contact, facial expressions, the tone or pitch of a voice, and body language are all subtle shifts that indicate someone is about to speak.
Though convenient while the world was shutting down in-person connections, being on video calls requires more focus than face-to face conversations as we have to work harder to process those nonverbal cues.
Have you noticed long moments of silence during which no one is talking then everyone talking all at once, over each other? During a video call with lots of people, cues are lost, leading to both disjointed conversation, and some people opting not to speak at all.
And while silence is part of the natural rhythm of real-life conversation, when silence happens on video, we can become anxious about the technology (“Are they frozen on screen?”, “Is my internet connection stable?”, “Am I unmuted?”) or even perceive the responder as less friendly or focused. So those brief delays can actually shape our view of others negatively.
Another layer of anxiousness comes with the awareness of being watched when on camera and with that can come pressure or a feeling that you need to perform. Being performative can be incredibly stressful. Seeing one’s own face is like having a mirror in front of you during a meeting. With that mirror, people are spending a lot of time worrying about and checking whether they look approachable and professional. It can be draining to feel like you have to be ‘on’ for the entire meeting.
Video calls are also a reminder of what we have lost temporarily. It can be distressing to be constantly reminded that we can’t be in contact in the ways that we were pre-COVID-19.
Lastly, with relying upon video calls for work, you may have noticed that it is difficult to enjoy using the same technology to relax and catch up with family and friends outside of work. When you use the platform throughout the day to join meetings at work, the platform loses its value and rather than seeking out opportunities to be on video catching up with friends and family, you may find yourself actively avoiding those opportunities at the end of the day.
We used to be able to take a break from interacting with people by spending time on our device and now, we take breaks from our devices by seeking out real, live human connection and that is one very good tip for dealing with the heightened stress and anxiety caused by Zoom fatigue.
Here are some other tips to help you manage the anxiety, and stress as well as lower the overwhelm that has come in this new era of Zoom fatigue.
- Limit video calls only to those that are absolutely necessary. Are they the most efficient options versus a conference call or check in via email?
- Make it optional for participants to turn their cameras on for all or part of the meeting.
- Remember to refocus your eyes at a distance periodically to reduce eye strain. The American Academy of Ophthalmology also recommends taking these steps:
- Adjust your seat, or the position of your computer, so your eyes are about 25 inches from the screen. Position the screen so you’re gazing slightly downward.
- Use a matte screen filter on the screen to reduce glare.
- Use artificial tears when your eyes feel dry.
- Pay attention to the lighting in the room where you work. You might try increasing your screen contrast.
- If you wear contact lenses, give your eyes a break by wearing glasses now and then.
- During video calls, allot some time to actually check in on people’s wellbeing as a way to reconnect with each other. This can help to maintain trust as well as reduce fatigue and concern.
- Disconnect when you need to.
- If you can, schedule time in between virtual meetings. In those periods between calls, figure out what you need in that moment and do that. If you need time alone to replenish your energy, take it. If you need time with a real, live person, then by all means, seek out the chance while keeping safe. If you find that you just need to move around a bit, do that with a walk around the block, a personal dance party or a stretch break.
- Be sure to stay hydrated and drink some water.
- Practice mindfulness. There are lots of apps out there like Headspace, Insight Timer, and the Calm app that can help you learn to meditate. Do yoga.
- Have compassion for yourself and for others. You are experiencing an unprecedented world event that is impacting every aspect of our lives. We all get angry or upset or behave in ways that are less than our best so have some compassion for yourself in those moments and find compassion for others when you notice that they are showing up in ways that are less than their best.
- Establish daily routines. It is easy to work longer hours, since we are at home so allow your days to look and feel different from your evenings, and your weekdays should be different from your weekends.
- Please remember that boundaries and transitions are more important than ever. Giving yourself buffers between meetings and between times of the day will allow you the chance to put one identity to the side and choose to pick up the next… you can put your work self to the side when work is done in order to step back into your family and friend self
I hope that these tips are helpful for you to manage your Zoom fatigue!
If you would like to learn even more strategies to combat stress and build your resilience, please join The Women’s Vitality Center’s free online workshop via Zoom on Monday, July 20th from 4:30 – 6:00pm Pacific (or get the recording afterwards).
NOTE: Cameras are optional and if you feel like you can’t do one more Zoom call that day, sign up and you will receive the recording of the workshop after the call so you can watch it at your own convenience!