Zoom Fatigue Is Real - What's the Emotional Cost to Your Team?

Working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic has made Zoom meetings (and other live video conference platforms) an everyday part of our work lives. Unable to meet in person, many workers spend a great deal of time in Zoom meetings. Not only that, but in an effort to stay in touch with friends and family, they also find themselves attending Zoom meetings outside of work. This has led to a condition many people are referring to as “Zoom fatigue.”

What is Zoom Fatigue?

If you’ve found yourself feeling more exhausted once the workday is over or felt a general sense of dread when it comes time to get on Zoom for yet another meeting or social hour, you aren’t alone. Since global shutdowns due to the pandemic have made virtual meetings a necessity, people all over the world have started to tire of the format.

Known as Zoom fatigue, this phenomenon is a product of the digital workspace. While in-person meetings can certainly be tiring, the more intense focus required for virtual meetings causes us to feel an even higher degree of mental and physical exhaustion.

What Causes Zoom Fatigue?

What is it about virtual meetings that makes us feel so burned out? Recent studies have shown that there are some scientifically based reasons for this.

It’s Harder to Gather Communication Cues

In an in-person meeting, we’re able to easily see and gather verbal, auditory and physical clues that allow us to process information and give immediate feedback. When we’re having a virtual meeting, we often have to deal with poor sound quality, insecure internet connections, background noises, poor video quality, and delays in transmission. All of these things make it more difficult for us to really interpret what is going on, meaning our brains have to work harder to process the communication we are receiving.

Eye Strain

Staring at a screen all day causes our eyes to become tired. It also leads to an increase in physical symptoms such as dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck or shoulder pain. Virtual meetings increase the amount of time we’re required to sit in front of our computers, tablets and smartphones. Add to that the fact that we’re also using these devices when we’re not at work and you have a recipe for excessive eye strain.

Lack of Separation Between Our Home and Work Lives

When you’re working from home, it’s hard to feel like you’ve ever left work. Since everyone has computers and smartphones, we often feel an expectation that we be “on” at all times. This feeling is increased when we’re forced into a position where we’re attending virtual meetings for both our work and personal lives.

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How Does Zoom Fatigue Affect Your Individual and Team Performance?

Fatigue makes it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. When you’re exhausted from attending virtual meeting after virtual meeting, you will be more likely to zone out. You’ll also be tempted to multitask while attending your Zoom meeting. And, as you’ve likely heard or experienced, multitasking doesn’t make you more productive. When you’re dealing with a whole team who is sick and tired of being in virtual meetings, no one on the team will be as productive as they should be.

How Can You Limit Zoom Fatigue?

How can you alleviate that feeling of exhaustion when it comes to attending virtual meetings? After all, working remotely can’t be avoided. It has become a necessity during the pandemic, and it will continue to be a widely used structure after the pandemic. 

Here are a few tips that can help you and your team in avoiding Zoom fatigue:

Make Meetings Shorter

Recent studies conducted by Microsoft have shown that virtual meeting fatigue starts to set in somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes into the meeting. Ideally, your Zoom meeting should last approximately 30 minutes. To keep your meetings at a reasonable length, limit the number of attendees and create an agenda so that you can stay on task.

Take Frequent Breaks

Don’t neglect taking breaks. Look up from your computer screen every 20 minutes or so. Chunk your work time into focused sessions and then take a break after that period of time is over. When you’re on a break, put down your phone and step away from your desk and computer.

Limit Zoom Meetings

While meetings are an essential element of the workplace, not every meeting needs to be conducted via live video conference. There are a number of different asynchronous tools you can use to reduce the amount of time you and your team are spending in virtual meetings. 

These asynchronous tools include:

  • Grapevine – Send and receive recorded video updates that your team can view and respond to at their own pace.
  • Slack – Instant messaging system that can target specific colleagues or groups.
  • G-Suite – Make, collaborate and share presentations, spreadsheets and documents.
  • Email – Message your colleagues and allow them to respond at their convenience.
  • Basecamp – Manage projects with message boards, document sharing, and scheduling.

In Conclusion

Although virtual meetings serve a valuable purpose, it’s important that you not overdo it. To ensure that you and your team avoid the effects of Zoom fatigue, you should incorporate into your workflow the asynchronous tools that expand your communication options while increasing collaboration and productivity.