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  • Tracy Hooper

How to Recover from 'Zoom Fatigue'

Recently, on what felt like the 100th Zoom call of the week, the host announced, “I am so sick of seeing myself!” Then, somebody else jumped in, “Same here. My goal these days, is to go to a meeting, where I don’t have to look at my own face!”

People are also saying they’re “Zoom weary “or have “Zoom burn out.” No offense to Zoom. It’s just that Zoom’s become the generic name for video calls like Kleenex to tissue, and Saran Wrap to plastic wrap. Zoom, WebEx, Skype, FaceTime. Whatever platform you use, being “always on” can be draining. And it turns out, there’s science behind it. It’s called “Zoom Fatigue. “

An article in the April 2020 issue of National Geographic sites research by Dr. Andrew Franklin. He’s an assistant professor of cyberpsychology at Norfolk State University in Virginia. He says, “Virtual interactions can be extremely hard on the brain.”

According to Dr. Franklin, humans communicate, even when we’re quiet. So, when you’re face to face with someone, you focus on the words and dozens of nonverbal cues. Are they looking at you or turned away? Is their head slightly cocked, are they frowning, smiling? This is how we connect with each other. But on video calls, we miss a lot of those cues, especially when someone is framed from the shoulders up and we can’t see their hands or read other body language. Dr. Franklin says, “The brain becomes overwhelmed searching for non-verbal cues that it can’t find.”

Then, add the Gallery View, with the Brady Bunch-style, that shows everyone on the call. Dr. Franklin says, “This challenges the brain’s ‘central vision,’ forcing it to decode so many people at once, that no one comes through meaningfully, not even the speaker.” Then there’s that gray bar, “Your internet connection is unstable.” Or, people interrupt because of that half second delay. Or your dog barks! No wonder we have Zoom Fatigue!

Here are 3 strategies to help.

  1. Less is more! Shorten your video calls. With a clear agenda, you can get a lot accomplished in 20 or 30-minutes.

  2. Use the good ‘ol telephone. Consider follow-ups or even holding meetings by phone. I’m a note taker, so when I’m on a video call, I feel compelled to tell people, “I’m taking notes, so if I look away, I’m still paying attention.” On the phone, nobody sees me writing. I don’t have to be “on.” I can listen and take notes and respond.

  3. Give yourself transitions. Before, you’d go from building to building or down the hall or travel from one part of town to another for conferences, or networking or other meetings. So, there were build-in transition times to decompress or prepare for the next face-to-face. Now, with back-to-back video calls, it feels like we need to say, “Sorry. I need a few minutes to go to the rest room.” Or “I’m going to take a quick lunch.”

Try this: Take at least 10 minutes to transition from one video call to the next. Step outside. Make a cup of tea. Do a set of squats. Meditate. Or, sing along to a favorite song on your play list.

It shows confidence to set boundaries around your schedule. Encourage your colleagues to do the same. Don’t take a rare break. Take a real break.

Give yourself some slack. Take care of yourself. And, your brain will thank you.

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