Zoom fatigue. It's a term heard many times since March 2020, but what is Zoom fatigue exactly?
There has been an exponential growth in teleconferencing applications, such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and Webex. Just like searching for something on the Internet is called 'Googling', Zooming is now a generic term for attending a web call.
Our brains incorporate non-verbal communication during a conversation and indicate how we should respond. We can pick up information from others facial expressions and sideways glances. They signal to us what's going on in the room and how we should respond.
These are absent during a zoom call. We are reliant predominantly on words.
A video conference has significant amounts of close eye contact, which we will come back to later. During a face to face meeting, people generally look elsewhere from time to time, rather than staring at the speaker. Online, our faces often appear too close for comfort.
The Zoom setup means it is impossible to have more than one conversation at the same time. This feels unnatural, as generally, other people can have an opportunity to chip in and add their thoughts.
On Zoom, the best option is to ask your audience to raise a virtual hand when they want to speak. Yet another thing your brain has to factor in.
Zoom fatigue symptoms
What are some Zoom fatigue symptoms? Here are some examples:
Sore eyes, after staring at the screen for too long
Avoiding or rescheduling meetings
Feeling excessively tired at the end of the day
Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
Frustration and feeling irritable
None of these are good. We have listed some reasons why you might be suffering from Zoom fatigue and some solutions.
Mirror, mirror on my screen
Most teleconferencing applications come with a self-view function, switched on by default. Think about it; we don't conduct our daily business with a small mirror dangling from our faces. So why use one online?
Constantly seeing yourself is not only creepy but mentally draining. We tend to be more critical and judgemental about ourselves in a mirror too. So, turn off self-view if possible. You will thank me for it later!
Our faces are often unnaturally close on a Zoom call, especially if everything is on full screen. We often associate close contact with intimacy or aggression. Both can be intense, and in the case of the latter, stressful situations.
One recommendation is to reduce the size of the window and adjust your camera settings, so your face doesn't fill the screen. Think, if you were in real life, how big would another person's face be during conservations.
Alternatively, position the camera differently, allowing you to step back from the screen. You might need a wireless keyboard and mouse for this to work.
Gestures can mean different things online; a sideways glance could mean you are checking on your children or the cat. Whereas in a face to face meeting, you could be looking at your colleagues to see what their reactions are.
Reading the room online is a lot to take in, looking at everyone in the call. Some gestures need to be exaggerated, such as jazz hands or a thumbs up to ensure they are correctly seen. All this is very taxing.
One solution is to give yourself an audiovisual break, even turning away from the screen for a minute or two.
Technology makes it easy for us to send a message or emoji in a matter of seconds. This means we are no longer focusing on the speaker and are distracted. Our brains are having to multi-task, which in itself is very tiring.
So when attending a Zoom call, put away your phone, and restrict the chat function to crucial moments in the meeting. Consider avoiding using the gallery view when possible, so your brain can focus on one person at a time.
Hopefully, this article has shown you Zoom fatigue is real and some ways how to combat it. Don't forget the time management aspect, and schedule leg-breaks and fresh air in-between Zoom meetings where possible.
Which of the four suggestions do you like the most? Which ones do you think you could implement in your next video conference?