The popularity and use of video conferencing tools like Zoom, Teams, and Skype have risen aggressively in this pandemic. From workplaces to schools, video conferences via Zoom and other similar software became the new normal. Zoom fatigue is the name given to the exhaustion we feel for being chained to our screens during numerous videocalls daily.
Working from home or remote work is undeniably becoming more frequent. The virtual realm has become our new board room or the office’s kitchen. Business meetings, online classes, social meetups, yoga classes, even dance parties are on Zoom nowadays. This type of continuous video conferencing day in and day out is causing this exhaustion.
But it's not only Zoom that is causing this. It's happening on other video conferencing platforms like Google Meet, Skype, GoToMeeting, FaceTime, Slack, and others as well. It's just that the popularity of this ubiquitous video conferencing platform has been so substantial during the pandemic that this psychological phenomenon has been named so.
There are many reasons behind this tiredness and burnout. Whilst we won't dig into these mostly psychological reasons for Zoom fatigue, we are sharing 4 great tips to prevent this type of video conferencing exhaustion They are with:
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Decline
It's okay to say no for those numerous video call requests you get in a day. Any time you get a request, think about it - is it necessary to attend that call? Can it be turned into a text-based conversation instead?
During video calls, we are literally chained to the screens. We are minding our voice, tone, physical appearance, body language, internet connectivity, microphone status, video angle, attention spans, and of course, our own roles in each call. That's a lot to process during one call!
So, if you are working 8 hours a day, how many videocalls are too many to interrupt your productivity and menta health? Maybe you can turn those daily work update Zoom calls into weekly catch-up calls? Or you can just do a phone call, instead of an elaborate Zoom video call?
And what about those social Zoom invites? Do you need to schedule yourself into another Zoom yoga class, when you already have other Zoom calls scheduled that day? Pace yourself when you are scheduling your working hours and free hours. You don't have to fill up your schedule with every incoming meeting request. Find alternatives or skip them altogether.
2. Separate Work and Play Hours
Remote working comes with distractions of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. Your spouse, kids, peers, friends, meetings, conferences, troubleshooting technical issues, even Netflix can cut into your work schedule, if you are not careful. Therefore, make a schedule and separate out your work and play hours. We all need to wind down after our working hours, so it's okay to find activities with your family that lets you plug off from work. But be strict with the timings of such activities. How about doing the following?
- Stick to a schedule: book your Zoom calls within your working hours. If these calls invade your play hours, you might find yourself unnecessarily agitated because you would much rather be doing something else instead of getting stuck to your screen. Don’t be afraid to draw the line.
- No pyjamas: working from home tends to put you in a work-only mode, which can affect your physical as well as mental health. Prepare for your work hours, just like you would have prepared yourself before going to the office. In short, don't work in your pyjamas.
3. Take Break Between Calls
Videocalls engage you physically, visually, and mentally. Once you are in a call, you get submerged into that experience. If you schedule yourself in back-to-back Zoom calls, you will get engaged for longer durations of time. Plus, you will have an overload of information from those calls.
Take breaks in between calls. Just going to the next room for a few minutes can help you refresh yourself. Bathroom breaks always count. Or you can spend time with your loved ones for a little while till the next meeting. Just make sure you are not using the break time to take notes from the previous meeting or prepping for the next meeting - that just defeats the purpose of taking a break at all!
Schools are doing a marvellous job with this. Most schools have back-to-back online classes, but they are intentionally putting 15-20-minute breaks in between to give relief to the students. When the first class ends and students get a moment to get away from the screen, they utilise that break time to reset and prepare themselves for the next class. And you can follow this practice too.
However, if taking breaks is not feasible, try for shorter meetings. Or step away from your screen to stretch your body or grab a glass of water. Meeting rules and etiquette are much more relaxed now. So, as long as you are within hearing distance, know what's happening and you are responding spontaneously, your actions will not be viewed as inappropriate. Just make sure you communicate clearly before taking such actions.
4. Plan Your Zoom Calls
A Zoom call can be shorter if you plan it well. Shorter calls bode well for your physical and mental health. You will be focused on the task at hand, all the participants in the call will know their roles in that call, and as soon as the agenda is fulfilled, you can say your goodbyes and wrap up the call.
If you're the host, you can create an agenda for the meeting and share it with the other participants, before the meeting starts. This way, you and your participants can prepare for the call beforehand. And you can wrap up your call on point.
Now if you are not the host, you can still ask for the agenda from the host who has invited you. Having access to the agenda of a Zoom call where you are not the host can help you decide if you really must participate in it. Maybe your participation can be voluntary, instead of mandatory. Or maybe you can fulfil your participation via text-based conversations or just a phone call. Just make sure to check with all relevant parties to reach a decision, don’t just fail to turn up as you wouldn’t do that on a face-to-face meeting.
Zoom fatigue is practically inevitable, but we can manage it much better than how we are handling it now. Videocalls have been one of those essential tools that helped us stay connected with other humans in the new reality of remote work. It made it possible for us to keep working, hang out with our friends and family, get more fit than we ever were, and more.
Let’s be thankful to Zoom (and other video calling tools) for being there for us when we need it the most. Otherwise, we would have been wallowing in uncertainty, doubts, and insecurity all through lockdown and beyond, without any connection to the world outside our homes.
Learning to say no to unnecessary meeting requests is the first step that will help a lot in preventing Zoom fatigue. Avoiding multitasking, or separating your work, play and binge hours can do wonders to your productivity levels. When you work at your best, you do your best, and that boosts your mental health as well.
And even if you weren't forced to work from you due to the pandemic, taking breaks are a must when you are working from home. It's simple, really - you walk away from work, engage your mind in something else, and then come back refreshed to tackle your remaining tasks with more passion and determination. This way you won't get stuck in a rut or find your work too exhausting. Practising these healthy habits can go a long way in cultivating the right perspective to work smarter in the new normal.