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First and foremost, what is Zoom fatigue?

The work from home situation has caused most of us to work across video conferencing, with Zoom being the most prominently used application. This virtual interaction seems to be taking a toll on the emotional health of thousands of people – those who attend work-related meetings on Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, or any video conferencing platform and those who teach and learn courses on these platforms. Staring for long hours to the small screen confined to the virtual space leaves them exhausted at the end of the day. So the term ‘Zoom fatigue’ has popped up and the way things are progressing, it is here to stay.

What causes the so-called ‘Zoom fatigue’?

Zoom fatigue is largely caused due to the differences involved in virtual meetings from real-time face-to-face interactions.

1. The need to concentrate continuously.

With your team members or class glued to the screen, it becomes demanding for you to do this as well. You can’t afford to whisper to your colleague or classmate to ask for something you missed out on, as you would generally do. You also miss out on a lot of non-verbal communication in the form of facial expressions, tone, and pitch of your voice and gestures. This strenuous activity of relying on verbal communication to infer emotions can leave your brain drained and devoid of energy.

2. The conscious attempt to avoid distractions.

Though working from the most comfortable place on earth, your home, it has its share of challenges too. The innate feeling of being continuously watched forces you to be aware of the backdrop of your zoom meeting. You believe that kids running in or a partner walking around during a virtual meeting can leave a bad impression and you seem to be taking the extra effort to avoid such situations adding to the pressure.

3. No breaks.

Office meetings have their fair share of coffee breaks or walking around to the next room. But with virtual meetings, you are glued to your chair and the screen for hours. And though virtual, most offices emphasize on the importance of dressing up and looking presentable during a virtual meeting. So you don’t have the choice of lying down or walking around during the meeting.

4. Looking at our own faces can be stressful.

Yes, even though you may not realize this, we are watching ourselves more than we are watching others. We are constantly on the run to ensure our hair is well-kept, put up a pleasant face, and make the others believe that we are listening to each word. This drains out our mental energy completely.

5. Silence isn’t golden anymore!

While silence in a regular meeting adds to its rhythm, even a two-second silence during a virtual meeting can make you anxious about your internet connection. Virtual meetings often do not end up as smooth as expected owing to people turning their microphones on and off, background distractions, and irregular connections. The need to be continuously verbal can leave you tired at the end of a meeting.

How to combat ‘zoom fatigue’?

1. Avoid multitasking.

Though you may feel it is easy to check emails or switch between tasks during a zoom meeting, it can cost you a lot of your productive time. So keep the phone away, close unnecessary tabs and windows, and concentrate on your meeting.  If everybody follows this, the meeting could be completed in lesser time.

2. Take in-between breaks.

Take permission to turn off your cameras, minimize your windows, and walk around in between a long Zoom meeting. And you could also request your organization to change the default one-hour meetings to 30-45 minutes.

3. Reduce onscreen stimuli.

As mentioned earlier, staring at your own face can be draining. Hiding yourself from the view could be helpful. Background distractions can also stimulate the brain. So ask team members and students to choose a light-colored plain background for the meetings

4. Switch to phone calls or emails whenever possible.

If it is possible to avoid video conferencing and get things done over phone calls or a series of emails, go for it. It can be highly relaxing. These tips to overcome Zoom fatigue may work for some and may not for others depending on the nature of work and organizational policies. But make sure, you don’t feel exhausted adapting to the new normal.