Ah… Zoom. It was THE app of 2020 and, as society shifts into a new way of doing business, it looks like it’s here to stay for quite some time. As of March 2020, Zoom had over 2.13 million downloads, doubling the number of downloads from the month before. It has completely changed how some industries conduct business, and it has improved others in ways we didn’t think possible. But, like anything else, there are downsides. Sure, we could go into the social aspect, but the real problem we’re facing is Zoom fatigue.
What is Zoom fatigue?
The term Zoom fatigue describes the tiredness, worry or burnout associated with overusing virtual platforms of communication. And it is very real. This is caused by a number of factors, including excessive close-up eye contact, a higher cognitive load, constantly seeing yourself and a dramatically reduced use of mobility. It sounds like these things are unavoidable (I mean, we can’t just NOT use our eyes all day, right?), but we’ve gathered seven ways to help beat it.
7 ways to beat Zoom fatigue
1. Avoid multitasking
It’s easy to think that a Zoom meeting means you have more time to get smaller tasks done off-screen, but you’re only hurting yourself by doing this. You have to turn certain parts of your brain on and off for different types of work and, because of this, switching between tasks can cost you as much as 40 percent of your productive time. I know it’s tempting to quickly shoot off an email response while in a Zoom meeting, but remember you’ll be able to craft a much better response if you wait until it’s over.
2. Build audio-only breaks
What a weird world we live in where we have the phrase “audio-only break” as part of our daily life, but it will help in the long run. Take a few seconds to minimize your browser window, move it behind your open applications or just look away from your computer completely every once in a while. This isn’t an invitation to start doing something else, it’s simply giving your eyes, body and mind time to reset. There will be days when you have back-to-back meetings or meetings that last well over an hour, and believe it or not, it’s okay to take some time away from the camera and focus on your wellbeing.
3. Stop looking at yourself
Research shows that when you’re on video, you tend to spend the most time looking at your own face. That’s not typically how we interact with other individuals in the real world, and it’s causing some potential mental fatigue trying to wrap your head around it. Luckily, Zoom has an option to hide yourself from view.
4. Stop looking at everything else
If it wasn’t distracting enough looking at your own face during a Zoom meeting, you also have so many other visual stimuli. You have the room you’re working in, plus the rooms all the other people in the call are in as you can see them behind the individual. You can see their furniture, plants and wallpaper. You might even strain to see what books they have on the shelf. The brain has to process all of these visual environmental cues at the same time. To help, try using a neutral background or agree as a group to have everyone who is not talking turn off their video.
5. Switch to phone calls or email when possible
If you have the opportunity to turn a meeting into a phone call or email, do it! If you have Zoom fatigue, there’s a good chance the person on the other end of your screen has it too, and by asking if a meeting can be moved to a phone call, you are doing both parties some good. Try looking at your calendar at the beginning of the day to see what can be adjusted and what can’t.
6. Try to move your screen far away
When I worked at a call center, I had my first panic attack. It wasn’t because the job was stressful, it was because I was strapped to a headset connected to a computer with no mobility options. I couldn’t leave, and that tore me down quickly. Though we now have wireless earbuds and whatnot, the same concept applies when you have to fit within a certain field of vision. You can combat this by placing an external camera farther away from your screen to allow you to pace and doodle like you could in a traditional meeting. By making this tiny change, you’re doing your mental health a world of difference.
7. Make the screen smaller
Think about the number of close-up eyeballs you now gaze into on a daily basis. I would bet it’s shockingly larger than it used to be. Something you can do to help with this is to take Zoom out of full-screen mode and reduce the size of your window. You can also use an external keyboard to create more space between you and the screen, making it easier to survive hours of back-to-back meetings.
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