Do you find yourself increasingly exhausted by the end of your workday? If you’ve noticed that the feeling of fatigue is more than what it used to be, you’re not alone. Working from home means that we’re spending more and more time on video calls. Not exactly what we signed up for.
I used to favor video calls over in-person meetings. Since I didn’t need to leave my place, I thought they saved time. Perhaps that was the case when they were a drop in my ocean of meetings.
Given the COVID 19 situation, virtual meetings have taken over most of our social interactions. Instead of visiting your parents, you have a Zoom call and your once in-class gym sessions have become online.
Why do video calls feel mentally exhausting?
In a virtual meeting, looking interested doesn’t come naturally. You have to put effort into it, usually through gazing at your screen. Additionally, non-verbal cues like body language and facial expressions are either lacking or harder to interpret. We’ve evolved to subconsciously recognize those social cues.
In a face-to-face meeting, there is an abundance of them. Your peripheral vision is enough to tell you if a person is paying attention or has a question to ask. When your brain spends many hours a day trying to fill in for those missing cues, it can be enervating.
Things that are normal in a physical meeting, like a moment of silence, can be alarming in a video call. You can’t help but wonder, is it a glitch? Am I frozen?
Network delays can be frustrating when you’re the one doing the talking and can utterly disrupt the conversation flow. It can also distort the sound clarity. Your brain works harder to guess the fuzzy words, not to mention the constant scrutiny of the giant heads staring at you.
It's not just you. Google trends show a spike in searches for the phrase “Zoom Fatigue” since mid-March. Remote work doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Instead of letting your Zoom calls sap your energy, you can work your way around it. The good news is, when a problem is so rampant, it draws in much attention and research which can often provide some answers.
6 ways to avoid zoom fatigue
1. Avoid multitasking
Despite the growing body of evidence that shows how multitasking can be unproductive, lots of us still believe that multitasking helps us accomplish more. Indeed, it can be irresistible not to check your email, text a colleague, post a Facebook status update, all while you’re on a video call thinking that your focus won’t be impaired. But it will be.
Research from Stanford found that regular multitaskers have decreased memory, particularly media multitasking. This can be something like writing a report on your laptop, an email pops up and you check it while you occasionally check your Facebook notifications and messages.
For the duration of your video call, close any open tabs or applications that can lure you into checking them every few minutes. It can be hard at first but remember that when you spread yourself too thin, you’re actually doing less.
2. Less back-to-back meetings
It may sound like a good idea to cram your meetings together to save yourself some uninterrupted time. But with your energy zapped, what good would that free time do you? Schedule or accept meetings in a way that will allow you a few short breaks. It’ll give your brain a chance to relax and time to prepare for your next meeting.
3. Use paper to take notes
Taking notes by hand is advantageous over laptop note-taking as it helps in retaining information. It also gives your eyes screen-free tiny breaks. When you shift your gaze away from the screen to write on a paper notebook, you’ll feel more engaged and focused.
4. It’s time to change back to voice calls and emails
Remember those times when we used to work in an office? Back then, not every contact had to be in person. We seem to have forgotten this. Not every call has to be a video call. More so when it’s someone you don’t know and would normally just give them a quick “voice” call or even an email.
Before you schedule your next virtual meeting, ask yourself if a phone call or an email is enough. I’m sure you recall a time when you attended a meeting that you felt should have been an email.
5. Limit your video options
If you’ve been invited to a Zoom meeting, join using your phone. It’ll dramatically reduce your screen time and you’ll only have to concentrate your attention on one voice. When you don’t have a screen to gaze at, you can walk around, look out the window, all of which can help you rest your eyes and think better.
Sometimes a meeting will include some shared slides or documents that will make it necessary for you to join from a desktop. In such cases, hide your self-view. Others will still be able to see you but just like in a real meeting, you won’t be looking intently at yourself. You can even turn off your camera entirely. Just let your colleagues know or they might think you’re frozen.
6. Take screen-free time
Spending more time glued to a screen means you’re spending less time moving your body. It also strains your eyes, can give you blurred vision, headaches, and all sorts of eye discomfort. It helps to take a few seconds to look away from your screen every now and then. During longer breaks, you can get outside for a 10-minute walk and get some fresh air. If it’s not possible to leave the house, just get up and have a glass of water.
Try a digital detox where you set up a time during the day away from all your electronic devices. When you’re not working, spend more time outside, try to do some exercises. It’ll give your brain time to reset and become less stimulated. By the time you go back to work, you’ll have more energy and less stress.
It’s a topsy-turvy period. We need to be prepared to roll with the punches and keep our mental balance to survive and thrive. Trying all or some of this advice will help you go through the day feeling spirited and avoiding Zoom fatigue.
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