I’ve been working remotely for the past year, and it’s been great! I don’t have to commute anymore, which means I can get up at 6 am and get a lot of work done before anyone else is even awake. Plus, I can work in my pajamas if I want to—and sometimes I do!
The other day I was video-calling my co-worker about how we were going to tackle a project together. They started talking about how they were excited about doing this project because he hadn’t worked on anything remotely since the pandemic. And then he said that the last time he’d been in the office was when they had to do a mandatory walk-through after they’d all been quarantined there during the pandemic. It really hit me that remote work is normal now—we’ve really settled into it.
We’re still working on making sure everyone feels comfortable with it, but things like video calls aren’t as hard anymore, they’ve become the norm. Zoom fatigue doesn’t exist as much as it did in the pandemic because we’re used to using it every day now.
However, if you’re new to remote work, you can still get Zoom fatigue. Let’s see how you can take simple steps to reduce it. In case you’re if you’re looking for ways to mitigate Zoom fatigue, we have a full-fledged piece on it that we did during the pandemic that you can read it here.
What is Zoom Fatigue?
Zoom fatigue is described as the air of exhaustion and futility that comes with using Zoom for extended periods. For example, you may begin a meeting by saying, “Let me just check my email before we start.” Then, as you try to explain your idea in a crowded conference room with no visual cues or physical feedback from your audience, you find yourself fumbling through slideshows while trying not to miss any key points or questions from those listening in. You keep thinking about how much easier it would be if everyone were physically present in the same space where they could see each other and take notes directly onto the paper.
What Does Zoom Fatigue Look Like?
While the convenience and efficiency of tools like Zoom are undeniable, they can be pretty exhausting for us humans! Zoom fatigue is caused by several factors, including the lack of body language cues in conversation (since we do not see each other), prolonged close viewing of our faces (which we do have to do when using these programs), as well as mental exhaustion due to social overload.
The mind is like a muscle. It needs to be exercised, but it also needs to be rested and renewed. Our mind is like a computer that needs to be rebooted if it’s been used for too long without a break.
Like any other body part, your brain can tire out if you overdo it with tasks that require heavy concentration and problem-solving skills—like working on a spreadsheet at work or trying to wrap your head around the latest episode of “Stranger Things.” And just as overexertion of specific muscles causes pain in those regions, overworking your brain can lead to headaches and other signs of mental exhaustion.
We all know that feeling—you’re having a great time and completely comfortable with yourself. You’re laughing with friends and feel like you can do anything. Then suddenly, you catch yourself in the mirror.
And that’s when it happens: the overwhelming sense of anxiety. The feeling that everyone is judging you, that everyone can see what an imposter you are, that everyone knows exactly how small and insignificant you are compared to them.
It’s called zoom fatigue, and it’s a real thing. It happens when people get so used to seeing themselves as they are—in other words, through their own eyes—that they start seeing themselves through the eyes of others instead. They see themselves as they appear to others—when judged or scrutinized—and not as they actually look.
Women are especially prone to this phenomenon because of their tendency toward self-criticism. A study of more than 10,000 Zoom users revealed that women reported 13.8% higher Zoom fatigue s compared to men.
A Lack of Bodily Cues in Conversation
Remote video calling lacks many of the visual signals that we use to communicate with each other in face-to-face settings. Without seeing someone’s facial expressions, body language, and gestures, we’re less likely to pick up on nonverbal cues like their tone of voice or emotional state. This can make it difficult for us to understand what our colleagues are saying or feeling—and it can also lead us to misinterpret what they’re trying to speak altogether.
Lack of Social Support from Remote Coworkers
The physical distance between coworkers means there’s no way for them to offer encouragement by patting each other on the back or high-fiving after a good brainstorming session (or even just saying “good job”). This lack of social support may negatively impact how much energy you put into your workday and how motivated you feel about going out into the world every day.
What’s the Zoom Fatigue Update?
According to research by Pew Research Centre:
- 56% of workers often use online platforms to connect with co-workers when working from home mainly.
- 66% of workers say they often use online conferencing services
- 77% of those workers who currently work from home most of the time – but never teleworked before this – say they use videoconferencing services.
- 59% of workers aged 18 to 49 say they often use Zoom when working from home.
- According to a 2020 study from the same source, 37% of teleworkers who use online conferencing said they were worn out by the time spent on video calls, while 63% said they were okay with using it.
- Lastly, the feeling of being worn out by using such tools was found to be more common in individuals with a bachelor’s degree or more.
How To Avoid Zoom Fatigue and Make the Experience Enjoyable?
Zoom fatigue is a common affliction that the use of electronic devices can cause. It occurs when your eyes are strained from staring at a tiny object for too long. The symptoms of zoom fatigue include headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision, and difficulty focusing. If you experience any of these symptoms while using your device, it may mean that you need to take a break and give your eyes a rest.
There are several things you can do to prevent and treat zoom fatigue:
Make sure that you are taking regular breaks from your device. If necessary, set the alarm on your phone or computer so you know when it’s time to stop working on your screen and take a few minutes off.
Make sure that you get enough rest and exercise every day. Staying up late into the night? Not getting enough sleep? Doing too much physical activity? There are many ways this could affect how well your vision system works during the day—one way is by causing zoom fatigue.
Turn off the Camera
While this rule may not apply to all your meetings, sometimes you’re better off without turning on the camera. It will give you a stress-free session without the hassle of constantly keeping a check on how you look. And ultimately prevent mirror anxiety.
Create a Pre-Meeting Plan
Another way to avoid zoom fatigue is by planning so that you know exactly what needs to happen at the meeting. This includes having a plan ready before anyone arrives, deciding who will facilitate discussion at each point in time, and knowing how long each part of the meeting will take so as not to run over time limits (and risk annoying your colleagues).
Ready to Cut Down on Zoom Fatigue?
Zoom fatigue is a real thing, and it can affect your performance in Zoom meetings and other video calls. I think the key takeaway from this should be that video calls get easier over time. I can’t tell you how many video conferences I was dreading, but after just a few minutes, I sort of forgot they were there and focused on the work at hand. And I’m sure that those around me felt the same way. So if you’re already having trouble with Zoom but you’re not ready to call it quits yet, give it some time. Remote work often feels difficult at first, but with these tips and tricks, I know that you’ll be on your way to feeling better about your video calls before you know it!