2020 was the year that brought the whole world to a standstill. Essential workers were pushed to the forefront and most offices switched to remote work. Although most employees were first enamored by perks like no long commutes and pajama bottoms, things began to take a turn for the worst.
Mental health was in a free fall, and people couldn’t integrate their work and life equitably.
When your home is the office, when do you switch off?
When do you say that the work for the day is done?
For many, there were no clear answers to these questions. Leading to terms like “burnout” and “Zoom fatigue” gaining popularity.
What is Zoom Fatigue?
Ever since the pandemic hit, video calls have become the norm- and many find it horribly exhausting.
Although burnout isn’t something particularly new and exciting, Zoom fatigue is a new homegrown demon. Zoom fatigue is the burnout and exhaustion faced by employees due to the constant video calls, messages, and emails. The constant need to be always “on” is contributing to employees’ stress.
Do you find yourself tense before and after a video call?
Do you do everything in your ability to avoid video calls?
Does the tell-tale ping of Slack and MS Teams make your heart skip a beat in the worst way?
If the answer to these questions is yes, you are experiencing the traditional symptoms of Zoom fatigue.
Why does Zoom Fatigue Manifest?
Seeing Yourself Constantly is Exhausting
Most people don’t like to see themselves constantly. We don’t like to see our double chin, messy hair, and poorly lit faces in their full glory, all the time. When it comes to any video call, we constantly see a little square of our own face peering back at us. It’s a great opportunity for us to nitpick and observe every ‘flaw’ we may have.
A great way to tune ourselves out is to choose to “Hide Self View” during Zoom calls. But unfortunately, MS Teams, Slack, and Google Meets don’t have the ability to do this natively.
Non-Verbal Cues go for a Toss
According to the Psychiatric Times, most communication is non-verbal. These non-verbal cues may be unconscious hand gestures, posture, and eye contact. Although they may seem insignificant, they are used by our minds for reciprocal communication.
But in video calls, these cues are lost due to differences in space, the subtlety of expressions, and the distinct lack of full-body views. Without access to these non-verbal cues, it becomes harder for our minds to find the correct way to respond. This leads to mental exhaustion that may sometimes manifest as Zoom fatigue.
Anxiety due to Lack of a Controlled Environment
Irrespective of how quiet and idyllic your home office may be, you always run the risk of someone barging in. It could be the family dog deciding now is a great time to ask you to play fetch or your kids looking for something silly. We are constantly anxious that something unprofessional shouldn’t happen during the call. For instance, you wouldn’t want to attend a court hearing as a kitten by mistake!
Sitting Still isn’t Natural
Although most of us are sedentary, sitting without moving much isn’t easy for most people. It’s unnatural, making people want to fidget which looks bad on video calls. This leads to an endless cycle of needing to sit still, wanting to move, and getting Zoom anxiety.
A good solution to this is to work on a standing desk where your camera is a little further away allowing you more movement that isn’t unnatural.
How to Deal with Zoom Fatigue?
Avoid Distractions during Video Calls
We often think that if one task isn’t that intensive we should focus on multiple tasks together. But research has shown that doing multiple tasks at once affects performance. A study by the University of Michigan concluded that context switching can cost up to 40% of productive time.
The next time you’re on a call set aside all distractions. Whether it is the constant barrage of emails or a multitude of tabs, shut it all out. Stay present in the moment. When you aren’t bombarded with all these you’ll find yourself calmer and more effective in answering every one.
Switch to Other Mediums
Constant Zooming can take a toll. The need to always be energetic and sharp can be stressful. Check and see if some meetings can be switched to phone calls or even an audio Zoom call. In all likelihood, the other participants will be relieved and are probably just as affected by Zoom fatigue.
Tap Out When You Need To
Some calls are unavoidable and need to happen irrespective of how you may be feeling. There is no shame in saying that you’d like to switch off your video in those situations.
Unless it’s with an external party there is no problem in doing this. Simply say something like “Switching off my video will help me absorb this better.”
Zooming with Friends and Family
Although restrictions are slowly easing it’s still hard to meet friends and family living in places that may require a flight. Everyone is still taking it one step at a time.
In this case, it makes sense to schedule Zoom calls with friends and family who aren’t a car drive away. That way you’ll associate Zoom with happy meetings too. Not just dreary office ones.
Virtual Employee Engagement Sessions
We may have whinged and whined about employee engagement sessions when were in office. But now they are important to break the monotony of working day in and day out.
Although HR is working overtime to improve employee engagement, you can also reach out to yours and give them ideas for some fun Zoom sessions. These could be virtual team-building activities and even escape rooms online.
A sure-fire way to get rid of Zoom fatigue is to stop associating Zooming with only stressful work calls.
Schedule Your Meetings Your Way
Meetings can chip away at your productivity and can lead to unnecessary context switching. See if you’d like to time box video calls only to certain hours in the day.
I tend to be more productive in the latter half of my day, which is why I prefer scheduling any video calls in the first half. This allows me to maximize productivity while also being more mellow for video calls.
You can use Google Calendar to block these hours from meetings and gain a little control over your workday.
Don’t Default to Video Calls
With the world as it is now, every single call seems to be a video call by default. Calls we’d have with clients or vendors that were just regular phone calls have now been converted to video calls.
Take a step back and evaluate which calls need to be Zoom calls. Be aggressive and ruthless in cutting out unnecessary Zoom calls. When you need a call to be an audio-only call, add something like “Video optional” or “Participants can keep their camera off” in the invite.
Create a Distraction-Free Zoom Call Location
If you’re family often barge into your meetings without realizing that you’re on one, consider the following:
- Take your meeting with your door locked so no one can enter
- If for some reason, locking your door isn’t feasible simply shut it and put a “Do not Disturb” sign up when you’re in a meeting
- Make sure that you don’t have your back to the door. Have a wall to your back and have the door in plain sight so you can stop stragglers in their tracks.
The Bottom Line on Zoom Fatigue
Burnout is becoming more common with each passing day. The constant fear of the health crisis isn’t helping either. Whether you’re in HR, the management, or an individual contributor, meeting fatigue can set in periodically. But whether we like it or not, Zooming is here to stay, and as is Zoom fatigue. In fact, other things are tiring out employees too.
What about the long email threads or deluge of communication notifications? It’s an endless litany and we must try to minimize the noise.
For instance, with the ongoing health crisis, time off requests have increased. Each time an employee needs to take time off:
- They need to reach out to their manager asking if the time is right to take a break
- The manager then needs to check work schedules and leaves taken by other employees
- Then if the time is right the employee needs to drop a formal leave application
- The manager needs to approve it
- If there are two levels of approval, the skip manager needs to approve it
- And only then can an employee take time off
This process is inefficient, tedious, and noisy. It is a lot of back and forth with multiple levels just to take time off. As the number of employees increases keeping track of these constant emails and approvals can become a task requiring a designated HR professional.
With AttendanceBot you get an automated attendance and time tracking solution that employees can use all on their own. They won’t even need training, it’s that simple and intuitive.
You can assign managers to each employee so that leave requests are sent directly to them within MS Teams or Slack. Once the leave is sanctioned the employee receives a notification. AttendanceBot takes care of attendance and leave management by:
- Allowing employees to view who all have approved leaves at any given time
- Company-wide visibility of which employees are on leave
- Leave requests and approval right within Slack or MS Teams
AttendanceBot allows companies of all sizes to take care of attendance and leave management without wasting time while still keeping managers in the loop.