Navigating this challenging time is giving lots of us an opportunity to learn new skills, and this includes using video conferencing platforms such as Zoom. Over the last year or two, I’ve been using Zoom in my work so it wasn’t new technology to me. It is for lots of people, though, and more people than ever are using it both for work and simply to connect with others at a time of social distancing. (If only I could see the future and had bought stock……)
Because I’ve been using it a lot more myself, over weeks I started to notice that I seemed to have less energy by the end of the day than I usually do, and more difficulty focusing. Wondering, I decided to do a trusty Google search and found an abundance of articles on – surprise – Zoom fatigue, also known as Zoom exhaustion, Zoom burnout, etc; you get the picture. So it’s a real thing.
I was curious and wanted to learn more. Here’s what I found:
We focus our attention differently on video calls and work harder to take in information and process visual cues. The more people on the call, the harder we have to work. Add to that background noise – theirs or ours – and peripheral distractions – again, theirs or ours – and we end up feeling over-stimulated and fatigued.
Another issue is that it is easier to lose focus. The “new normal” of working from home can include kids, spouses, deliveries, dogs and other distractions that can make it hard to concentrate and increase a sense of tiredness. Add to that, the temptations to multi-task which require even more of our attention.
Interacting with others in person doesn’t involve prolonged staring at that person which by itself is tiring, but if we look away on a video call, we may feel that others perceive us as not paying attention.
The reality is that the gifts of technology and being able to work from home using a platform like Zoom are tremendous but, like other technologies, we have to learn how to manage it.
Here are a few ideas to try, which I’ve been using and find helpful:
- Take care not to schedule back-to-back calls. Giving yourself at least a 15-minute break between sessions gives you a chance to get up, walk around, play with the dog, whatever.
- Do your best not to multi-task – this can be difficult, I admit. The reality, though, is that multi-tasking requires additional energy, resulting in feeling even more drained.
- Be mindful of your physical being. We already know that sitting for long periods of time is bad for health and can contribute to chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, even cancer. Sitting for long periods of time also puts stress on your back, neck and shoulders. It’s important to take a break every hour – most experts recommend engaging in movement for 10 minutes or so for each hour of sitting.
- Set yourself up for a successful video session. Close unnecessary programs, silence your phone and messaging, make sure your environment is free from background noise, make sure you have a comfortable chair that supports your back.
- Go dark. Turn off your camera when your participation isn’t required and give yourself a chance to stand and stretch. It gives your eyes a chance to rest, and your brain and body will both benefit.
- I’ve taken to suggest meeting by phone at times. It’s not necessary to always be on camera, and very productive conference or one-on-one calls can be done by phone. If I’ve been on a lot of Zoom calls, I’ll just tell the other party that and propose a phone call. It also gives me a chance to stand up and talk if I’ve been sitting for long periods.
We are all learning to adjust to and navigate this new reality. Having the ability to continue our work and connect with family and friends via video is one of the great gifts of technology that can work beautifully for us as long as we are mindful of our well-being.
I hope you find some of these ideas helpful and if you have any of your own, I’d love to hear them! Just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe and well!