In today’s flexible and hybrid world of work, virtual meetings have become the norm. But with this comes a new adversary: Zoom fatigue.
While in-person meetings can be challenging, engaging with multiple participants through a screen can make it difficult to stay focused and energised, leaving us over-stimulated online.
This article delves into the causes of Zoom fatigue, outlines its telltale signs, and offers actionable advice to combat the draining effects of excessive virtual interactions.
What is Zoom fatigue?
Zoom fatigue is the feeling of exhaustion and mental strain that arises from prolonged periods of staring at screens on video conferencing platforms.
While the term was popularised due to the use of Zoom during the pandemic, the expression now applies no matter what platform you’re using.
Why Zoom fatigue happens
Unlike chatting in person, video calls can be draining because we’re often missing subconscious – but significant – cues like body language and natural pauses. Without these, our brains have to work overtime to keep up, which can leave us feeling exhausted.
Staring at a screen for long stretches also takes a toll. Our brains have to process a lot of information from a small space, which can lead to visual overload and make it difficult to concentrate.
Trying to do too many things at once during online meetings as well, like checking emails or messaging, can make us feel depleted because the distraction makes us lose focus.
What is the impact?
The various negative effects on well-being and productivity include:
- Decreased cognitive performance: a 2021 Stanford University study found that video calls distract participants more than audio-only calls, leading to poorer information recall and less active engagement.
- Increased levels of stress and burnout: a study by Owl Labs found that 42% of US and UK remote workers experienced Zoom fatigue, which can include stress and burnout (however, only 14% wanted to return to physical offices).
- Feelings of anxiety: 80% of remote workers experience ‘Zoom Anxiety’, according to FitOn Health (formerly PeerFit).
Being able to identify signs of Zoom fatigue in yourself and your team is essential for maintaining mental health, well-being and productivity.
Behavioural cues that signal the need for a break
- Difficulty staying focused or maintaining attention during meetings
- Increased irritability or impatience with colleagues or tasks
- Frequent yawning, fidgeting, or restlessness
- Decreased participation or engagement in discussions
- Slower response times or difficulty processing information accurately
7 ways to overcome Zoom fatigue
Injecting a dose of movement and fun into your online meeting routine could be the remedy needed to keep Zoom fatigue at bay. Here are eight ways to shake off the virtual blues and reclaim your workplace energy:
- The 20-20-20 rule: take regular breaks by looking away from your screen every 20 minutes, focusing on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This reduces eye strain and gives your eyes a chance to rest.
- Time’s up: establish limits on the amount of time you spend on video calls each day and the duration of individual meetings. This helps prevent burnout and ensures you have time for other tasks and activities.
- Shake it off: allocate time throughout the day to stretch, and move around, because refreshing your body will also refresh your mind. This can be as simple as standing up, walking around the room, or doing a quick exercise routine.
- Work hard, play hard: use break times to engage in activities that help you relax and recharge, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or listening to music. These activities can help reduce stress and improve concentration when you return to work.
- Management through mindfulness: practice stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness, journaling, or talking to a trusted colleague or friend about your feelings. Addressing stress and anxiety related to virtual interactions is important for overall well-being.
- No more screen time: disconnect from screens entirely during non-work hours to reduce digital fatigue and promote overall wellness. Go outside, touch grass.
- Virtual happy hour, anyone?: Alternatively, you could try to build a sense of community among remote team members through virtual team-building activities, casual check-ins, and social interaction. Strengthening relationships with colleagues can combat feelings of isolation and enhance job satisfaction.
As video conferencing continues to be an integral part of the professional world in offices and living rooms alike, it’s clear that tackling Zoom fatigue is key to staying happy and productive.
Spotting the signs and putting our tips into action can help you stay strong in the digital world, making sure virtual chats are a boost rather than a drain on your workdays.
- How do I know if I’m experiencing Zoom fatigue?
If you’re feeling unusually tired, unfocused during or after virtual meetings, or notice increased irritability or mood swings without apparent cause, you might be experiencing Zoom fatigue.
- Can Zoom fatigue affect my productivity?
Yes, prolonged exposure to virtual meetings leads to decreased concentration, cognitive performance, and increased feelings of stress and burnout.
- What are some quick tips to overcome Zoom fatigue?
Implement the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eye strain, set boundaries for screen time, incorporate breaks and movement into your day, and practise relaxation techniques during breaks to recharge and refocus.