What is it and what can we do about it?
Due to the current situation in which the world finds itself, online communication has in many ways been our “saviour”.
Zoom and similar online apps allow us to “stay connected” whether that be in a personal, professional or business context.
However, using these online platforms has disadvantages too – one of which has generated its own new phrase, namely, “Zoom fatigue” AKA video chat exhaustion.
Zoom Fatigue – Contributory Factors
In ‘normal’ conversation, we not only listen to the other person’s voice (and look at their face), we also pick up on their body language (and even their “energy”).
During online meetings, however, we have to “work” much harder to interpret this “non-verbal” communication.
We may feel we have to make more “emotional effort” to appear interested. In the absence of many non-verbal cues, the focus we place on the words said, together with constant eye contact, can be exhausting (without us really being aware of it).
2) The “Performance”
Another potentially tiring aspect of video calls is the experience of seeing ourselves speaking on screen. This is almost like a “performance” which we’re constantly striving to make as natural (or as “professional”) as possible.
In addition, we may worry too much about how we appear to others.
Do I look OK? Is my “background” appropriate? Will others wander in and interrupt the call when I’m on it (even though I’ve warned them not to)? And so on.
3) Full Attention
On video calls we may also feel we have to devote our full attention to what’s going on at all times – which requires high levels of concentration.
Whereas, if we were “communicating” in a different way, for example, on a phone call, we could be doing something else – such as making a cup of tea (or whatever).
Being constantly “on” for long periods is tiring.
4) Technical Issues
Then there are our constant concerns about possible “technical” issues.
What if my broadband goes down and I “freeze” while I’m speaking? Or the sound suddenly disappears and no one can hear me? (we’ve all seen this happening).
And we’re not even talking here about delivering presentations or workshops and so on (which can take these concerns to a whole new level!).
While it’s understandable we might “worry” about all of this, it can also cause fatigue.
5) Not Taking Breaks
Zoom fatigue can happen because we don’t take time (or enough time) to “switch off” after, or between, calls.
After a call we ask ourselves how we can feel so exhausted when all we’ve done is sit on our chair looking at a screen and (occasionally) speaking but (mostly) listening.
And it can become even worse when we then remember, “Oh no, I have another online call in blah, blah minutes”!
6) No Excuses
Because video calls can (theoretically) be done at any time, we may feel pressured into participating in too many – while struggling to find “excuses” for not doing so.
And, as we all know, feeling pressured can be quite “draining”!
Zoom Fatigue – What We Can Do About It
1) Ditch the Visuals
On video calls, we don’t have to watch everyone else. We can (if appropriate) bypass the visual aspect and just listen instead. This allows us to focus more on the voices (and so we are able to “absorb” what’s being said more effectively).
2) Speaker View
We can utilise the “speaker view” facility so that we’re only looking at one person, ie. the speaker, and not just a “sea of faces” – which can be very distracting (and tiring!).
3) Other Ways of Communicating
We might try (where possible) to balance video calls with other methods of communication like email; texts; messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Messenger or whatever (or even old-fashioned phone calls!).
We should consider giving our brains time to “reset” by engaging more with “non-digital” activities.
Take a break and do nothing – or do something completely different. Make a coffee. Go for a short walk. Meditate for 5 minutes.
It’s up to you – just as long as it’s “away from the screen”!
5) Say No
We can give ourselves permission to say “No” (politely of course!) when we’re asked to participate in more online calls than we know are good for us (just a thought!).
In Summary …
While online video calls are undoubtedly a very effective way of staying connected and “getting things done” during the often difficult circumstances in which we all currently find ourselves, it’s useful to remember that they also have “downsides”!