How to Avoid Zoom Fatigue in Your Weekly Virtual Meetings

Working Remotely

Zoom virtual meetings dragging you down? Discover what Zoom fatigue is, why it happens, and what you can do to lessen its effects in this guide.

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt exhausted after one of your Zoom virtual meetings.

As soon as you hop off the call, your energy levels plummet and your productivity tanks. You may find it difficult to focus or get back to work. And the more video calls you take, the less motivated you may feel.

This is what experts are now dubbing “Zoom fatigue.”

If you’re like most remote workers, you’ve probably experienced Zoom fatigue without truly understanding why. But to combat the issue and reclaim your productivity, you’ll need to learn why it happens and a few tips to mitigate it.

We’re exploring all that in today’s guide, starting with:

What is Zoom Fatigue?

It may seem silly and slightly unbelievable that a video call where you’re seated most of the time can cause you to feel so exhausted afterward, but it’s true.

Zoom fatigue is real. And psychologists and researchers are discovering all the ways it may be contributing to adverse health outcomes in the virtual workplace.

Psychiatric Times defines Zoom fatigue as “the tiredness, worry, or burnout associated with overusing virtual platforms of communication.”

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Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many remote and newly remote teams communicate via video chat weekly, daily, or even multiple times per day. What used to be an exciting every-so-often occurrence has now become a routine struggle that leaves many feeling wiped out and weary.

But the bigger question is:

Why Does Zoom Fatigue Set In?

Zoom fatigue doesn’t stem from one root cause; it’s a culmination of several different issues that create the perfect storm, including:

Information and Attention Overload 

There’s so much information to take in and process during Zoom virtual meetings, from what’s being discussed and shared to who’s speaking and when you’ll need to contribute.

This situation requires you to be hyper-focused, and more so than you would be during an in-person meeting. 

If you’re sitting in a meeting at the office, you can show that you’re paying attention by listening intently and making eye contact every so often. But that’s much harder to show over video.

Oftentimes you’re stuck staring at the camera the entire time to “make eye contact.” Many people worry that they’ll appear disinterested if they look away or like they’re not paying attention.

Yet since most of us don’t usually stare and concentrate this long in one spot (or feel the pressure to), this situation creates anxiety and taxes our brainpower, contributing to Zoom fatigue. 

Extra Social Processing Drains Your Mental Battery

It’s much easier to tell when someone is about to speak during an in-person meeting. But it’s almost impossible during virtual calls, which adds a layer of social complexity to your meetings. 

Is it okay to speak yet? Will I be interrupting someone else who chimes in at the same time? What if it’s dead silent -- should I jump in and say something?

These unknowns sow anxiety and uncertainty. And they require you to pay extra attention to your coworkers’ social cues, a difficult task on its own that’s even more challenging virtually. 

You Need More Discipline to Avoid Distractions 

Since most of us take our virtual meetings at home, you’d think we’d feel more relaxed and at ease. But just the opposite is happening.

Household distractions (like spouses, kids, or pets unexpectedly jumping into the background of your call) require more mental discipline to tune out. Interruptions and notifications from your computer may also pop up during your call.

You may not have these distractions in view during an in-person meeting, but they’ll test your discipline at home. And overcoming them takes a considerable chunk of your mental capacity. 

Staring at Yourself for So Long Is Weird

The last big piece of the puzzle is having to stare at yourself for the entire meeting, something most of us are not used to doing.

Focusing on every little detail about your on-screen appearance causes serious distraction and anxiety. You may find yourself overly critiquing and stressing over minor issues when you usually wouldn’t have such a lengthy or up-close glimpse of yourself. 

Combine all these potential triggers, and it’s no wonder you feel drained after each video call. So let’s talk about what you can do to mitigate these issues starting today.

How to Avoid Feeling Wiped Out After Your Zoom Virtual Meetings

You can take a proactive approach to lessen the effects of Zoom fatigue now that you know what it is and what causes it. 

Follow these five tips, and you’ll find a healthier, more productive balance between your work life and weekly virtual meetings:

1. Get Smarter About Scheduling Your Virtual Calls

The timing of your Zoom virtual meetings is critical to your day’s productivity. So before saying yes to every virtual call invite that comes your way, give yourself time to think over the details and:

Consider your work habits when scheduling/accepting call invites. While it’s tempting to accept each invite and move on, you may need to consider when the call starts and ends.

For example, if you’re an early bird, you may not want to spend your focused mornings draining your energy on virtual calls. Instead, you may opt to push these into your afternoon when you’re already winding down for the day.

Don’t schedule back-to-back virtual calls. While it can be tempting to knock out a few calls in a single afternoon, this may only compound the situation.

Give yourself a buffer between meetings so you can get up, stretch, walk around, and give your eyes and brain much-needed rest.

If you have to take multiple virtual calls, try to space them out in your day by leaving at least 1-2 hours between meetings. You’ll be able to recharge and give each call your full attention.

2. Eliminate Distractions Before They Creep In

Before you begin your virtual calls, try to identify and stop any potential distractions and focus-stealers in your vicinity. 

Close out any extraneous website tabs on your computer, silence your phone, turn off email and Slack notifications, and let your family know that you need quiet time.

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Be prepared to give your kids 15 minutes of undivided attention before hopping on the call to ensure no one comes barging in. Walk your pup so he doesn’t bark or beg to go out and leave some catnip around to distract your furball too.

This should become your new virtual call ritual, just like you’d silence your phone or set your Slack status to “away” before walking into an in-person meeting. The more you can prepare for and eliminate distractions, the more focused you’ll be during your video call.

3. Start On Video But Turn It Off at Some Point

It’s becoming more accepted to begin a video call on-camera and turn it off at some point during the meeting. This gives employees a chance to check-in and “show face” while also taking the pressure off being “on” and staring at themselves the whole time.

It also helps everyone on the call know who wants to contribute. 

You can have people unmute their microphones or turn on their cameras when they wish to speak or add to the conversation. This gives everyone an indication of who will speak next without everyone interrupting each other simultaneously. 

You’ll keep the conversation flowing without the stress of everyone being on camera the whole time.

4. Mix In Phone Calls With Video Chats

Video calls are ideal for helping teammates “see” each other when working remotely. They help everyone feel as if they’re working together despite clocking in miles apart.

But that doesn’t mean you have to use video calls all the time. Scheduling phone calls between your Zoom virtual meetings allow you to foster this spirit of collaboration and connection without everyone feeling the fatigue.

So meetings that don’t require screen-sharing should be held over the phone. Or you can use the same virtual meeting software, but tell everyone you’ll be using voice instead of video.

5. Minimize Yourself and Shift Your Focus

If seeing yourself on-screen is too distracting, it might be time to minimize yourself during your video chats. This will help you focus less on what you look like and shift gears to the meeting at hand.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should stick a Post-It over your camera. Some video chats let you switch screens so you only see everyone else and not your view.

After you do this, it may be tempting to focus on other people’s distractions, such as their background or adorable pets in the frame. But that’s not the goal here.

Instead, try to envision being in a meeting with your team in-person. Think about what strategies you would practice there.

Would you look down to take notes every so often? Occasionally make eye contact with speakers to show you’re listening intently? Nod your head in agreement?

You can do all these while looking at the camera for a few brief seconds. Alternate between looking straight at the camera and at the people on your screen to shift your focus every so often.

This gives your eyes a break and helps eliminate the strain that comes with staring at the screen for 30-60 minutes straight.

Final Thoughts on Avoiding Fatigue in Your Virtual Zoom Meetings

Before reading this guide, you may have felt drained after your virtual Zoom meetings without realizing why. But now you know it’s a real consequence of using video calls so often.

Since you’ve made it to this point, you also know the best steps to take ahead of time to decrease Zoom fatigue and keep up your productivity. Whether you work remotely permanently or temporarily thanks to COVID-19, these proactive strategies will help you make the most of your meetings and the rest of your day.

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