Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, organizations have had to prioritize leading business meetings remotely via video conferencing software. At this point in time, ‘Zoom fatigue’—or the exhaustion felt after a long day on Zoom or other online meeting technologies—is not a new struggle for today’s workforce; it has been over two years of remote work for employees at organizations that shifted to telecommuting due to the pandemic. Still, no one could have foreseen the length at which remote work would persist and participating in video conferencing over a multi-year period can leave many feeling like the mental exhaustion may never end.
Fortunately, there are efforts you can take to minimize Zoom fatigue and keep yourself feeling rejuvenated after a long day of online meetings.
There are a number of factors that explain why video conferencing leaves us feeling more exhausted at the end of a meeting than when we engage with coworkers in the office.
It’s no surprise that staring at a screen all day can leave our eyes feeling worn out. In physical office environments, internal meetings are typically a break from screens—a time to sit around a table with coworkers and brainstorm or to look at a real, tangible person that is leading the meeting.
While screens can be present during in-office meetings, they are typically used for viewing presentations that contain oversized text, graphics, and reports—requiring less of the narrow focus that video conferencing on a small laptop demands. This constant use of laptop screens can leave our eyes feeling fatigued.
While there are plenty of distractions in an office environment, it’s harder to get sidetracked within the confines of a familiar office conference room. With video conferencing, however, every meeting participant can have a different background and—whether it’s a fun virtual background or the backdrop of a home—it’s easy to get preoccupied by a coworker’s virtual surroundings.
Additionally, it can be difficult to fight the desire to multitask and work on other projects during a video conference—especially during times when cameras are not required. Participating in a virtual meeting while simultaneously completing other work can leave employees feeling drained and unfocused.
Overall, the amount of stimuli and the desire to multitask can lead to sensory overload that also contributes to post-meeting exhaustion.
Prior to video conferencing, we never used technology that allowed us to look at ourselves during a meeting. The ability to watch ourselves talk or study our faces while we listen to an online meeting can not only be distracting but can leave us feeling self-conscious about our appearance.
Video conferencing can create new insecurities we would have never otherwise had or thought about during the course of a workday which can also be emotionally draining.
There are several practices you can exercise to help limit the amount of Zoom fatigue felt at the end of a virtual workday.
While taking breaks from your screen is an obvious tip, it’s easier said than done in the midst of a busy workday schedule. If it’s difficult for you to take true breaks over the course of your workday, consider taking your eyes away from the screen during video meetings themselves.
In physical office environments, meetings often include whiteboarding, group brainstorming, and physically standing to foster ideas. It can be helpful to stand up and physically move around your home office during a video conference. Not only does this provide a screen break for your eyes but it can help you feel more energized during the course of a remote workday to help fight fatigue.
It’s easy to get distracted by a coworker’s home or a virtual background that’s highly detailed and contains vibrant colors. Consider implementing a default video conferencing background across your organization. This background can be creative and embody your company’s culture, but the fact that it will be used consistently across your organization can help reduce distraction and increase attendee focus during meetings.
Most video conferencing technologies have a feature that lets users hide self view, allowing your camera to remain on while preventing you from staring at your own face in the video chat. This can prevent some of the self-consciousness that video chatting can create and allow you to stay present and more natural as a speaker.
The ease at which video conference meetings can be scheduled can sometimes lead to the technology being overused. While too many meetings can lead to exhaustion on any workday regardless of being remote or in-person, it is particularly taxing to sit through a video meeting that could have been an email chain or phone call. If a meeting feels unnecessary, participants are likely to tune out and work on other projects. As for any well-run meeting, ensure you have a full agenda, that all participants are critical to the conversation, and that video is a requirement to ensure the meeting runs smoothly.
If you feel that you may not be needed for a particular video conference, ask the organizer to clarify your role and decline nonessential meetings. If you typically organize meetings, ensure that the topics at hand cannot be handled via email or a phone call prior to scheduling a video meeting. Additionally, scheduling a no meeting day for yourself once a week can help reduce Zoom fatigue immensely.
Zoom fatigue is likely to become more prominent as video conferencing technologies continue to develop and the remote workforce continues to expand. Where possible, it’s important to take breaks from screens, use simple backgrounds, hide self view, and limit the amount of video meetings you participate in each day.