By Sonya Callan

Zoom fatigue or virtual fatigue is not a new phenomenon but has come to the fore more recently with the prolific use of video conferencing over the past year taking over from traditional in-person meetings.  Whilst there is a time and place for video conferencing and also considerable benefits to it such as reducing the requirements for travel to meetings, keeping travel budgets and time spent away from the office low, there are also some negative aspects as many users are now finding.  The number of Google searches for ‘zoom fatigue’ is growing every month, as people struggle to figure out why they are more drained after a day on video calls than if they had the same amount of meetings in person.

The intensity of video calls put a lot more strain on us mentally and many studies carried out by the likes of Stanford University are doing a lot to highlight the issue of ‘Zoom fatigue’ as real and substantial.

“The number of Google searches for ‘zoom fatigue’ is growing every month, as people struggle to figure out why they are more drained after a day on video calls than if they had the same amount of meetings in person.”

In simple terms some of the main causes of Zoom fatigue are:

Eye-Contact: There is a much higher expectation for people to remain focused on the screen during video calls so that everyone is seen as paying attention.  This means that you are using a lot of energy trying to stay focused on the speakers at all times.  During in-person meetings there is always time to look away from the speaker and just listen which gives your brain a rest.

Movement: With the use of laptop or desktop cameras people are now very restricted in their movements as everyone tries to remain within their screen view.  There is very little opportunity to move about, to flipcharts or wall charts to provide that motion.

Self-Criticism: Spending hours and hours looking at yourself on a screen might be enjoyable for some but for the majority it can be distracting and not in a positive way.  Some video users won’t feel comfortable when they look at themselves constantly, noticing every reaction and facial expression and this can lead to a lot of negative thoughts about themselves which can be draining.

Non-Verbal Communication v Verbal Communication: Most experts agree that between 70-93% of all communication is non-verbal and this means that we are all communicating all of the time even when we are not speaking at workplace meetings and events. A quick nod or wave at an in-person meeting can speak volumes.  That resource is not available online during video calls and as such each attendee has to work harder to get their point across or signal their agreement or disagreement with different aspects of the meeting.

Staying Focused: The onus is on all attendees to remain focused for the duration of the meeting however, on top of the other challenges above are the many other distractions that now face people joining video meetings from their laptops or pc’s.  The constant barrage of emails, meeting requests, text messages and family interruptions mean that each attendee has to make more of an effort to ignore all of the distractions which again requires more effort!

Now we know what causes the fatigue, what can we do differently every day to ease it?

  • Reduce the screen size of your video app so that there is a feeling of distance between you and the other attendees.
  • Turn off your video for a few minutes at a time to give the visual side of your brain a break and encourage others to do so.
  • Suggest a phone call instead of a video meeting, a quick chat can sometimes cover an issue more efficiently rather than the formality of a video call.
  • Try to schedule your calls so that you have a break between meetings to allow you to rest your brain and move around your work space.
  • Avoid any other distractions if possible and focus on your meeting alone.

By raising awareness of Zoom fatigue and following some of the easy tips above, hopefully you can walk away at the end of your day feeling a bit more refreshed.