Dealing with Video Conferencing Fatigue

With lunch meetings and overnight out-of-town trips on hold because of COVID-19, the video conference call has become a valuable tool in connecting offices with staff, stakeholders and the public. And while one would imagine the ease of connecting with another person digitally would decrease the stress of meetings, it's entirely possible you or those in your organization may be feeling the exact opposite or experiencing "Zoom Fatigue".

As more and more people rely on technology to stay connected, many are discovering that video conference calls are leaving them feeling more drained and tired at the end of the day than previous face-to-face interactions had before. But why do video calls leave you feeling more drained? And what can you do to lessen this impact?

'Zoom Fatigue' occurs for a number of reasons. Firstly, the nature of video calls force us to pay attention to little details for a longer period of time. In a face-to-face meeting, you may take a moment to look out a window or glance down at your notes. These little moments provide a quick break from data overload, which you may not get when dealing with a video conference call. In fact, video calls can force you to focus on more data overall, as you process tone, facial expressions, and other non-verbal cues and don't have much time to look away for fear of missing something important.

Secondly, there is a state of 'hyperawareness' that comes from being on a video call. In a face-to-face meeting, unless there's a mirror in the room, you rarely see or think about how you look at any given moment. In a video call, however, you're able to watch yourself as well as the person you're interacting with. This can create a kind of self-awareness where you now find yourself watching your own responses and how you come across during the meeting, which can add an extra level of exhaustion to a meeting.

So, now that you know some of the causes of 'Zoom Fatigue', how do you address it? Here are some quick tips you can try:

  • Schedule No Meeting Times - While this one may feel a little backwards, since it's usually the meetings we schedule, it can be helpful to set up a block in your schedule where you do not accept any meetings. Whether it's a daily time block (no meetings from 11:25am - 12:00pm, for example) or an entire day where no meetings (barring emergencies) will be accepted, it helps set up a much needed break to help you recharge.
  • Add More Communications Tools - While video calls are sometimes seen as the 'gold standard' replacement for face-to-face communications, other options do exist and work just as well. Programs like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack allow users to chat using text instead of doing video calls. You can even cut the programs out entirely and rely on a simple phone call to connect with one another.
  • Ask if Video is Necessary - For some meetings, not everyone on the call needs to be on video. Allowing members of the call to not have video on, or to be on 'audio only', is not only a good chance to reduce Zoom Fatigue, but it can also address the occasional tech issue by reducing video streaming strain on the platform you're using. 
  • Turn Off 'Self-View' - Many softwares allow you to turn off, or minimize, the view you have of your own webcam. By taking focus off of yourself, if you have to have your video on, you can reduce those feelings of self-conciousness and hyperawareness, which should help you decrease a bit of fatigue throughout the meeting.

While there are many other options you can consider to help you deal with Zoom Fatigue, this is a good start to help you keep focused and avoid feeling burnt out at the end of the day.

Further Reading:

12 Tips That Actually Help with Zoom Fatigue

How to Beat Zoom Fatigue - and Set Healthy Boundaries

Zoom Fatigue is Real - Here's Why Video Calls are so Draining

'Zoom Fatigue' is Setting In: What it is and How to Prevent It

How to Combat Zoom Fatigue