Zoom fatigue is a real phenomenon.
Constant video conference calls will make you feel more exhausted than a workday full of traditional meetings. And, in the era of indefinite remote work, face-to-face interactions only take place during virtual meetings.
Professionals in every industry are starting to look at video conferencing platforms like Zoom, RingCentral Meeting, Google Meet and Windows Teams in a new light.
People everywhere are asking themselves, “Why are Zoom calls so draining?”
There are a few reasons why this is true. We’re going to cover those and then show you how you can fight Zoom fatigue and optimize video communication throughout your organization.
Why are Zoom meetings different?
Remote meetings are a must-have business process in today’s pandemic-impacted economy. However, they are not the same as face-to-face meetings. They come with a few key differences:
- Zoom meeting attendees must focus more intently: In a physical conference room, you can typically catch up with the flow of the conversation, even after zoning out for a minute or two. All it takes is a whispered question to your neighbor. This cannot happen in a remote meeting. There is a constant pressure to remain entirely focused on the conversation at hand.
- There are more ways to lose attention: Video calls make losing focus easier than ever. You can check your mail, send text messages, browse the web and much more. Attendees who work from home may be forced to multitask when family members require immediate attention. There are more things competing for your attention at home than in an office conference room.
- Zoom meetings require a constant gaze: Most in-person meetings involve sparse eye-contact. Attendees can glance out windows, look at their colleagues, and peruse their notes. In an online web conference, looking anywhere other than the screen makes you appear uninvolved. There is no nuance when it comes to body language. As a result, you end up staring at your presenter’s face (or your own) for an extended amount of time. This creates an exhausting sense of hyper-awareness.
Despite these facts, web conferences are still the best option out there. Remote team communication is the best way to avoid exposing employees to health risks. The key is teaching team members how to do it well.
Five ways to optimize Zoom meetings and reduce fatigue
Zoom fatigue, like workplace exhaustion, is something that can be controlled. Policies that help reduce fatigue will improve the productivity and effectiveness of meetings for everyone involved.
1. Resist the urge to multitask
Multitasking makes work more tiring. It might be tempting to check your email while someone is droning on about a subject that doesn’t impact you, but it’s not worth it. The mental effort of getting yourself back into the conversation will exhaust you.
That kind of exhaustion can impact your memory. Stanford researchers found that long-term multitaskers cannot remember things as easily as their peers. The more you disperse your attention, the harder your brain has to work to recall information.
There is a neurological basis for this. Switching focus on different things solicits different parts of your brain. Doing this frequently means turning those parts of your brain on and off frequently. The end result is a tired, energy-drained brain that has trouble remembering the things it was focusing on.
When participating in a video conference, do your best to be completely present. Close all of your other windows, put away your phone, and ask your loved ones to avoid distracting you.
Some interruptions are unavoidable. Try to reduce them to the best of your ability.
2. Schedule breaks into longer calls
This is advice is beneficial for Zoom hosts and attendees alike. People who don’t take breaks have a much harder time staying focused. The older people get, the more frequent the need for breaks becomes.
This is something that Zoom meeting hosts can build into longer meetings from the start. If a complex subject requires more than an hour to address, it should benefit from at least a ten minute break. In fact, you can use the Pomodoro Method to scale out your break times for every thirty-minute interval.
Hosts can also apply this tactic when scheduling meetings.
If you have to schedule back-to-back meetings in a single day, make sure to leave five minutes of free time between every 25 minutes of meeting time. Failure to do this simply ensures that attendees are going to lose focus.
Attendees may not be in a position to take breaks whenever they like. Building breaks into conference scheduling requires structural action. Talking to whoever schedules Zoom meetings is the best way to make sure breaks are taken into consideration.
3. Reduce visual stimuli on the screen
When engaged in a video call, people have a tendency to spend time looking at their own face. This can create a sense of hyper-awareness and self-consciousness. It also distracts from the meeting’s purpose. Zoom hosts and attendees alike can improve performance by reducing the number of things they need to pay attention to on the screen.
For attendees, hiding yourself from view is a good option. It helps prevent you from becoming self-conscious about your appearance and lets you focus on the subject of conversation.
Hosts should ask themselves whether sharing video is necessary in the first place. In many cases, it helps to have the host share their own face with attendees. But is there value in requiring attendees to show their own faces? There may not be.
Reducing the number of visual elements on the screen makes it easier to focus on the few elements that matter.
Encourage users to share video only when talking, so that attendees can listen without having to worry about the way they look. It might seem counterintuitive, but it works.
In most cases, attendees are interested enough to follow meetings without having to prove it through video. Giving them the ability to choose whether to share video or not can have a positive overall effect.
4. Distinguish between opt-in virtual events and mandatory ones
Many organizations fail to distinguish between mandatory virtual events and optional ones.
It can be hard to keep a company culture alive while all of its members are working from home. Virtual social events allow team members to contribute to that culture.
But, hosts who do not specify whether virtual events are optional or mandatory, place their team members in an unusual dilemma. Having people join a social event unwillingly defeats the purpose – they should have the freedom to choose.
Making that freedom explicit will improve the value of virtual social events for everyone involved. It will also make the expectations that come with mandatory virtual events – like training sessions and meetings – more clear.
Not all virtual events are the same. Communicating your expectations for each event will help avoid confusion and streamline the events themselves.
It can be helpful to appoint a facilitator for large groups. This group leader may decide the order in which attendees speak so that large events are well-organized. This is true both for virtual social events and business-critical ones.
5. Don’t make video calls the default for everything
Video has taken over as the default method of remote communication for almost everything. But having web conferencing software and a great video hosting platform does not mean that every conversation has be conducted via video.
For example, one-on-one conversations with people outside your organization can probably happen by phone. Video calls can be intrusive when shared with people who don’t know each other well. Sometimes, the “video” aspect does not necessarily add value.
This doesn’t mean you need to give up on video. It only suggests you should look at the value that video represents.
Let’s say you want to emphasize your company’s high-quality product tutorial videos. Starting a video call puts all of the attention on you – not your videos. If all you need to do is introduce pre-existing video content, a phone call or an email may do the job just fine. Your video hosting provider will do the rest of the work for you.
This goes both ways. If a client, vendor, or distributor unexpectedly sends a Zoom link your way, it’s perfectly okay to decline and suggest a phone call instead.
Many of the social norms governing video calls have not had enough time to become cemented in daily life. We have to build those norms now, through thousands of tiny interactions throughout this period of time.
Optimize video call value to reduce Zoom fatigue
The underlying pattern to all of these tips and tricks is simple. When you pay attention to the value that video offers, you can make good judgment calls about using it.
Video conferencing can have a powerful impact on workplace productivity when done right. It can also drag down efficiency when done wrong. Use video calls for the meetings that benefit most from the visual medium, and rely on the support of a professional video hosting provider for modern features and functionality.