Avoiding Virtual Burnout: Harvard Business Reviews Top Ways to Combat Zoom Fatigue

🕑 4 minutes read | Dec 14 2020 | By Becky Gendron

In the last few months, the way that we work, collaborate, and interact on a daily basis has changed drastically. Our time spent physically in the office has been significantly reduced, and nearly all of our meetings are being done through zoom or some alternative virtual platform. In fact, according to research by Stanford, 42% of the U.S. labor force is working remotely full time. [i]

This massive increase in remote work has led us spending countless hours on video calls with little to no breaks. The effects of this were not obvious at first but are beginning to take a toll on many Americans. Many are referring to this as ‘Zoom Fatigue’.

So, why are zoom calls so exhausting?

With all of the technology we have today, you would think that Zoom and other platforms make virtual meetings extremely similar to meeting in-person. If this is the case, then why do Zoom calls feel so much more exhausting than traditional meetings? We found a great article by highlighting 5 key reasons that zoom calls can be more tiring than regular meetings. [ii]

  1. We miss out on a lot of non-verbal communication – Many of our non-verbal communication skills such as facial expressions and body language, which we so heavily rely on to effectively communicate with others, are not able to be expressed during a zoom video call. This makes it more challenging to read the emotions of others and determine how you are being perceived by your coworkers.
  2. Window into your personal life – Often on video calls, we are worried about our children running into the room, our dogs barking, the delivery person ringing the doorbell.  Many people are also stressed about the way their home looks in the background for everyone to see or based on our homes appearing in a less positive light to our colleagues.
  3. No water cooler catch-ups – Often when you are physically in the office, you have the opportunity to chat with your coworkers while making your morning coffee, fixing lunch in the break room, or as you wait for a meeting to begin. These breaks are crucial to our creativity and also to strengthen the relationships we build with our team members.
  4. Looking at our own face can be stressful – Zoom meetings can make you feel like you are staring at yourself in a mirror for hours on end. This tends to make us hyper-aware of our facial expressions and cues which can lead to increased levels of stress.
  5. Are you listening or are you frozen – When meeting in person, silent moments or breaks in conversation are positive as they often mean those around you are digesting or listening to understand new information. However, when silence occurs on zoom calls it can cause confusion and misunderstanding.

So how do we combat ‘zoom fatigue’?

With millions of users meeting via zoom each day, it seems as though virtual meetings are here to stay. So how can we help keep our teams from reaching a virtual burnout? Harvard Business Review recently shared some great quick tips on combating zoom fatigue: [iii]

  • Avoid multitasking – When attending a zoom meeting, do your best to be present. Close other tabs and projects you are working on and use the time to interact with your team.
  • Build in breaks – Do not feel as though you have to stare at your screen for the entirety of a zoom call. Take time to look away from your screen while listening in meetings.
  • Reduce onscreen stimuli – When on video with five different team members, it can feel as though you’re in five different rooms at once. Encourage your team to work in rooms with plain backgrounds to avoid onscreen distractions.
  • Make virtual social events optional – It’s important to be mindful of those in your organization who may be introverts. They may be drained from a day of zoom calls and could benefit from a relaxing night offline. Allow them the opportunity to opt out of a virtual company gathering occasionally.
  • Switch to phone calls or email when you can – While nothing beats face-to-face interactions and conversations, swap in phone calls and emails where you can to give your team a break from being on video.

As we all navigate this new virtual workplace, it’s important to allow yourself to take breaks from constantly being ‘on’. While technology keeps us connected, it cannot also drain us, so it’s important to be sure you’re getting in enough ‘offline’ time as well. Try implementing these tips throughout your organization and see the positive results it has on your team.

[i] Stanford research provides a snapshot of a new working-from-home economy
[ii] Zoom fatigue is real — here’s why video calls are so draining
[iii] How to Combat Zoom Fatigue

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