How to combat the effects of Zoom fatigue while working from home

Are video conference calls leaving you feeling exhausted? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Millions of workers around the world have now spent over a year in spare bedrooms and home offices, as the pandemic and waves of lockdowns forced office closures. The impact on mental health has been significant.

 

What is Zoom Fatigue?

Research by Stanford University has confirmed that constantly being on video calls may be to blame for a specific type of burn out, known as Zoom fatigue or virtual fatigue. This is because video conferences cause greater stress to the human brain than meeting in real life due to the excessive amounts of close-up eye gaze and increased self-evaluation from staring at video of oneself.

You also have to work harder to read people’s facial expressions, decode tone, and process body language through a computer screen, which again has a negative cognitive impact – even if you don’t realise it.

On platforms like Zoom, Skype, and Teams, the behaviour ordinarily reserved for our close relationships — such as long stretches of direct eye gaze and faces seen close up — has suddenly become the way we interact with co-workers and clients, which is a huge mental burden.

A 2014 German study also suggested that silence on video calls may be partly to blame. This is because while silence creates a natural rhythm in a real-life conversation, when it happens in a video call, you became anxious about the technology not working properly or being judged negatively.

This combination all adds up to increased strain on our mental health, which can impact other aspects of your life if you don’t know what signs to look out for.

 

Recognising Zoom Fatigue

Key symptoms that indicate you might be suffering from the condition include:

  • Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships and being present with loved ones
  • Frustration and irritability with co-workers
  • Overheating or feeling sweaty during calls
  • Eye strain or irritation that wasn’t pre-existing
  • Muscle tension, pain, fatigue, and insomnia

 

How to deal with Zoom Fatigue

The good news is that there’s a simple solution to eliminate the Zoom fatigue associated with seeing your own image—turning off the self-view button. Zoom has a feature that allows you to hide your image without turning off your camera so that others can still see you, but you don’t have to stare at yourself.

To do this hover over your image and click on the ellipses (three dots) that appear in the upper corner, and then choose ‘Hide Self View’.

On Skype you can also implement this by right-clicking on the video and selecting ‘Hide Myself View’.

Unfortunately, Teams does not have this ability yet.

It is also recommended that users regularly having video conferences shrink the size of the video window so that other faces do not feel so close.

Finally, sometimes video meetings can drag on much longer than they need to, and this can exacerbate feelings of Zoom fatigue. To keep meetings on track and on time, set and share an agenda with everyone before the call. That way everyone knows exactly what the meeting will cover and roughly how long it will be.

With some form of hybrid/remote working likely to continue after the pandemic, it is important to understand the science behind Zoom fatigue so that you can flag it to your manager if it’s becoming a problem. If you’ve got any tips to share to combat Zoom fatigue, please leave a comment below.

For more posts on protecting your mental health while working from home see here: