Zoom fatigue is the burnout, stress, worry, dislike, and resentment associated with the overuse of online video meetings. Zoom fatigue is an umbrella term that extends to the overuse of other video conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Facebook Messenger, etc. So how do we avoid Zoom fatigue? Avoiding or reducing zoom fatigue requires a set of mindful practices from everyone who participates in video group meetings.
Shorter, Fewer Meetings
One of the easiest ways of avoiding zoom fatigue is to opt for shorter meetings. Humans have short attention spans. Focusing at a spot on the screen becomes harder with each passing minute. Distractions from family and pets at home further reduce the ability for participants to be fully present at meetings.
Reducing hour-long meetings to 30 minutes and multi-hour meetings to a single hour pushes speakers to make judicial use of their time. Time restraints push speakers to speak faster, stick to the agenda, and hog less screen time. Shorter meetings can encourage attentive listening. Allowing permission to leave meetings earlier and cutting short meetings that do not have to drag on help with productivity and reduce zoom fatigue.
Asynchronous videos, group texts and emails can be used for following up on video meetings. On occasion, these tools can eliminate the need for meetings. The result is fewer meetings overall. Zoom exhaustion can be avoided by balancing the use of synchronous and asynchronous tools.
Multitasking while video conferencing adds to cognitive overload. Cognitive overload affects focus, memory and productivity. Stress and poor sleep quality follow. Habitual multitasking in this situation is like taking an express train to zoom exhaustion.
So how do we avoid zoom exhaustion when we have a million things to do at once? Start with resisting the urge to touch your phone. Turn your phone off or put it away before the meeting. Next, refrain from responding to emails and text messages. Close all tabs and programs before starting the meeting. This type of discipline builds over time. Be patient with yourself. It takes time to tame such habits.
Adjusting your mindset helps. Remember that only medical emergencies need to be attended to without notice. The world will not end if you wait till the end of the meeting to respond.
Multitasking while video chatting will overwhelm your brain. So once the meeting is over, you will need a longer break than usual. You might work at a slower pace than usual. You might not want to stare at the screen after the meeting because of excessive stimuli during the meeting. Within a few hours, you might not be able to recall important points from the meeting because you neglected to take proper notes. Now you have to bug others about what you missed or go through the recorded video of the meeting to take the same notes again. So much for productivity while multitasking during a video meeting.
Paying attention, taking proper notes, and getting doubts clarified during the meeting will eliminate the need to revisit recordings. Revisiting recordings is like attending the same meeting twice. Messaging others about simple things that you missed during the meeting is now wasting everyone's time. Multitasking during video chatting is lengthening your workday. It is cutting into your time as well. So focus on the video chat meeting to the exclusion of everything else to avoid zoom exhaustion.
Increase Individual Engagement
Attending a video conference is a passive type of activity. Boredom can set in. Attendees can get distracted by other things. The larger the team the less likely it is that attendees will get to say or do anything in the meeting. Moreover, some participants will hog the time and others will go off-topic. If this pattern repeats with successive meetings, annoyance will build.
Employees would rather do productive work than sit through long, boring meetings. Long, boring meetings lengthen work days, increase fatigue, and compromise work/life balance. Avoid zoom fatigue by increasing employee engagement during these meetings.
Video meetings with 10 or fewer attendees allow for increased individual participation. If possible, then have no more than 10 attendees per meeting. Have several shorter meetings to accommodate everyone on a team. This can help with team bonding too.
If it is impossible to conduct multiple small meetings then make use of breakout rooms within meetings. The break-out rooms allows for smaller groups for some activities. Everyone gets to participate so individual engagement increases. Leveraging the power of breakout rooms provides the benefit of small, personal meetings to otherwise large, unengaging ones.
Less Visual Stimuli
In-person meetings provide a healthy balance between verbal and non-verbal communication. Unlike video conferencing, no one at in-person meetings is staring at anyone let alone themselves or multiple people with full attention. Video conferencing disturbs these norms.
There is an excess of visual stimuli and non-verbal cues are almost impossible to observe.
Plus, noisy and different backgrounds create additional unnecessary visual stimuli. This is the perfect recipe for increasing zoom fatigue.
Reduce visual stimuli by requiring the same plain and simple background of all team members. Hiding from your video reduces visual stimuli as well as self-consciousness. Switching to the Speaker View also reduces visual noise. It gets the listener to pay more attention to the speaker. The listener can also feel as if the speaker is talking to him/her as an individual. Look away from the screen for a few seconds to give the eyes a rest. These are simple solutions to avoiding zoom fatigue.
Audio-only meetings are also an option. Slides and presentations can be sent ahead of time. Participants can follow the slides on screen or paper as well as take notes during the meeting. There is an increased focus on listening and no time for self-consciousness. Skip audio-only meetings for phone calls whenever possible. An old-fashioned phone call reduces cognitive overload, allows for non-verbal cues, and helps to avoid zoom fatigue.
Fun Team Activities
People tend to associate negative connotations to zooming for work. Boring, waste of time, screen hogging, self-consciousness, and invasion of privacy. These are some unpleasant thoughts associated with zooming. At least there were donuts at old school meetings!
In-person meetings were a time to sit back, grab a bit, engage and share a few laughs with coworkers. That magic is gone. However, there are ways to recreate some of those experiences during video chat meetings.
How about turning casual Fridays and potlucks into crazy-hat and crazy-shirt parties? Maybe everyone on a team can turn up in the silliest hat or headpiece for the final zoom meeting at the end of the month. Members can laugh and talk about something. Everyone must talk or present with the silly or crazy hat on. It will lighten up the mood. There will be more bonding. Team members will feel as if they are a part of some special group with their inside jokes. This is a simple solution to avoiding zoom fatigue. Creativity, laughter, and bonding can make people forget about the donuts. Team members can select a winner and the winner can decide what the next silly activity would be. Once a month or once every other month are great intervals for such activities. Happy memories remain fresh long enough and anticipation for future fun activities build.
Games like Pictionary, Family Feud, or Trivia played for a few minutes every other meeting can be fun and engaging too. Performing one-minute comedy routines about life in quarantine can bring comedic relief in these serious times. Humor and silliness will help to reduce or avoid zoom fatigue.
Over here at Brightful, we have a bunch of pre-built games dedicated just for this!
Interact With Nature
Humans are designed to walk. We are not meant to sit and stare at screens for work and social purposes all day long. So avoid the build-up of zoom fatigue by going outside and interacting with nature. Take a walk or go for a hike. If not for the exercise then just for the view, fresh air, or sunlight. Do some gardening or play with pets. Feed the birds or a stray cat or dog.
Playing with and hugging pets have always relieved stress for people. Zooming friends and relatives can make some people feel even more lonely. It is a reminder that we are isolated. Hugging or interacting with a pet can aid in avoiding zoom fatigue
Scheduling for Work/Life Balance
There is no physical barrier between work and home life for most people anymore. Leaving home for work switches the brain to work mode. Leaving work for home switches the brain to a more relaxed mode. Avoid zoom fatigue by separating work time from personal time. A simple way of doing this is by following sunrise and sunset. Try to perform work-related tasks between sunrise to sunset. Do personal things after sunset or vice versa. This routine will mimic a regular work/life schedule. You will avoid zoom fatigue by training your brain to follow a set pattern.
Plan a 5 day work week and push yourself to follow it. Have 2 set days off in a week. If the workload is heavy then at least have 1 set day off in the week. Such a practice will take the edge off of anticipating a pop-up video meeting. Emailing, texting, and phone calls during the work schedule for work helps to avoid or reduce zoom fatigue.
However, avoid emailing, texting, and making work-related phone calls on your day off. Your brain can be stuck in work mode and this will contribute to burnout and resentment. So refrain from work-related communications on your off time to avoid zoom fatigue. Of course, one can make exceptions for emergencies.
Since zoom fatigue sets in not just from work-related video meetings but from personal video meetings as well, try not to zoom during your days or time off. Or stick to just one personal zoom on your time off. Carry on with a text or phone call. Group texts between friends and family suffice most of the time. Just hearing a loved one’s voice over the phone is pretty satisfying for most people.
The pandemic has increased our already unhealthy reliance on digital devices. Reducing the use of digital devices across the board will help to avoid zoom fatigue. There is a cumulative effect of using digital technologies. Most people decompress by playing online games and watching online videos. Such activities add to the cognitive overload from online work/school/social activities.
Cooking, knitting, exercising, dancing, singing and other fun physical hobbies can be solutions to avoiding zoom fatigue. Performing such activities with family can increase bonding and closeness. Again, refrain from filming and photographing everything and just enjoy the experience. Reading physical books, playing cards, and writing with actual pen and paper are simple solutions to avoiding or at least reducing zoom fatigue.
We might have no say in how many zoom meetings we have to participate in for work or family issues. However, we can certainly minimize zoom fatigue by avoiding recreating digitally.
People can detox by reducing their usage of digital devices by going off them for a period. They can just do this by going off it one day a week every week. Or they can choose not to use these devices for a certain number of hours each day. All these methods are solutions that will help in avoiding zoom fatigue.
There is a physical component that contributes to zoom fatigue. Sitting at the same spot without moving and sitting at a certain distance from the screen to avoid a bad camera angle have an impact on the neck and the back. Constantly focusing on the screen and trying to look attentive builds tension in the shoulders and the back. So even if you are enjoying the zoom video meetings, over time your body will experience fatigue.
So avoid zoom fatigue by incorporating ergonomics into your video chatting routine. The lumbar region and neck must be supported. Keep the screen height at eye level and a comfortable distance. Maybe an appropriate keyboard to avoid hunching of shoulders. Good posture is essential for avoiding zoom fatigue.
Regular stretching before and after video chat sessions are helpful. Quick stretches during meeting breaks are essential for avoiding zoom fatigue.