Zoom Fatigue – Why are Video Calls so Draining?
Due to COVID-19, countless people around the world have been thrust into working from a virtual space. Many businesses now depend on the use of video conferencing platforms such as ‘Zoom’.
While this seemed like an effective solution at first, many people have reported feeling much more exhausted at the end of a typical workday – so much so, that this experience has now had its own term penned: ‘Zoom Fatigue’.
But the question is, why do we find video calling so draining?
There are three main reasons.
Firstly, Zoom forces us to focus more intensely on conversations so that we can absorb information. For example, if you are in a conference room, you can often rely on whispered side exchanges for quick answers to fill you in, should you become distracted. During a Zoom call, it’s impossible to do so, unless you awkwardly try to find the right moment to unmute and ask your colleague to repeat themselves.
Added to this, is the fact that it’s easier than ever to lose focus during a video call. It’s all too easy to become distracted when an email pops up on the screen, or while you quickly reply to a text or Slack that comes through. Adding more fuel to the fire is our work-from-home situation, which for many is far from ideal. You may need to constantly remind loved ones not to disturb you or tune out as they army crawl across the floor to grab something from your ‘makeshift’ office.
Lastly, ‘Zoom fatigue’ stems from how we process information virtually. It turns out that virtual interactions are extremely taxing on the brain. Think of it this way, in real life, how often to you stand within three feet of your colleagues and stare at their faces? Whereas, on Zoom, the only way to show that you’re paying attention, is to look directly into the small little camera eye. Engaging in this ‘constant gaze’ can leave us feeling tired and uncomfortable. Face-to-face, we can use our peripheral vision to glance out the window, at the clock or at others in the office. Not to mention, we can also see a small window of ourselves, making us hyper-aware of every little expression and how this could be interpreted. Such a lack of visual breaks does not give us chance to refocus and therefore leaves our brains feeling fatigued.
While this all sounds like bad news, there’s no reason to despair!
At Positive Mind Works, we are very familiar with teleconferencing. As a result, we have five research-based tips to share with you, that we know (from experience) can help to help reduce ‘Zoom fatigue’.
Tip # 1 – Avoid Multi-tasking
It can be tempting to use the opportunity during a Zoom meeting to try to accomplish more in less time. However, research clearly shows that trying to do multiple tasks at once slashes our performance rate because you need to turn on and off certain areas of your brain to complete different types of work. That means that switching between tasks can lower your productivity by as much as 40 percent!
So, next time you jump on a video chat, put your phone on flight-mode and close any programs or tabs that might distract you (e.g. Slack, Skype or your inbox). Try to remind yourself that it can wait, and you will craft a better response when you’re not trying to engage in a video chat.
Tip # 2 – Take Mini breaks
It helps to build in short breaks from the video screen during longer calls. Do this by minimising the Zoom chat window or just looking beyond your computer for a few seconds every so often. Your colleagues will likely understand– and it is possible to continue listening whilst not staring at a screen for thirty minutes straight. We’re not saying that you should start doing something else but rather reminding you to let your eyes rest from the screen every now and again.
Tip # 3 – Reduce onscreen stimuli
Studies show that while on Zoom, we spend half the time gazing at our own face. An easy way to avoid this and focus better is by hiding yourself from the view. Others can still see you, but you won’t be constantly reminded of this (just like in real life).
However, there are plenty of other distractions on the screen. It turns out that we focus on backgrounds too, such as plants, furniture, and pets. This means that if you’re on a call with six colleagues, you may feel like you’re in six different rooms at once. Your brain then tries to process all these visual environmental differences. To reduce this cause of mental fatigue, try and encourage colleagues to use plain backgrounds or possibly agree as a workgroup that whoever is not talking can turn off their video until required.
Tip # 4 – Switch to phone calls
Where possible, check your diary to see if there are any conversations that do not need to be carried out by video call. If you have a one-on-one chat scheduled with someone, you could always suggest that the conversation be carried out by phone call instead. You will likely find that the other person is relieved by the switch too!
What’s more, try to avoid defaulting to video calls if you don’t know the other person very well. A video call seems more intimate and invasive, so sticking to a phone call may be a better and less mentally taxing option in some cases.
Tip # 5 – Schedule some screen-free time
Even if you can’t manage to stay away from your screen during your workday, be sure to designate some video call-free time in your life to help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. Do whatever works best to de-stress you, whether that’s a long walk, reading a book or magazine, or any other form of recreation that doesn’t involve technology!
Following these steps above will help you avoid feeling tired and overwhelmed at the thought of another video call. After all, it’s exhausting enough trying to adapt to these new circumstances, so following the tips above will help make things a little easier on yourself and reduce Zoom Fatigue.
If you’re struggling to adapt to working from home, check out our blog post – Working from Home 101 – Tips from our Team of Remote Workers