How to mitigate Zoom fatigue
Back at the start of 2020 I had never heard of Zoom. If I had to join a meeting remotely, I would ask the host to dial me in. At a push I’d use Skype, but I would never, ever, turn on my video!
But then a year ago, if I joined a meeting remotely, I’d often miss half the conversation, all the whiteboard action, and spend most of the time asking people to repeat what they said.
One result of the pandemic is the rise of the virtual meeting. Zoom (along with other reputable video conferencing services) has shown us that it is possible to work from home and still connect. Client calls, pitches, 121s and all-agency townhalls – we’ve done them all by video call. We’ve learned how to blur our backgrounds, mute ourselves when the dog barks, and share our screens.
4 problems associated with video calls
But it’s tiring, isn’t it? Constantly staring at ourselves and our colleagues and our clients is hard work. Zoom fatigue is a real thing, and we are all suffering from it. A recent study published in Technology, Mind and Behavior has taken a closer look and identified four problems associated with prolonged video calls:
- At a real meeting you wouldn’t be able to see everyone’s faces, including your own, up close, front-on, all the time. The relative sizes of the faces on screen is equivalent to them standing well within your personal space. If we were that close to someone’s face in real life, our brains would interpret is as a mating or conflict situation! Not your 9.30 team scrum. The whole situation is unnatural and deeply uncomfortable.
- Video calls increase our cognitive load! To make ourselves understood, we exaggerate our social cues – nodding emphatically, looking directly into the camera, speaking louder. At the same time we’re receiving fewer cues than we would get in face-to-face conversations. All of which requires extra mental capacity to process.
- Looking at yourself all the time is stressful. The researchers likened it to long periods of looking into a mirror, and it is linked to negative self-focus and self-evaluation.
- Being on a video call reduces your mobility. Cameras, especially close-up ones used in video calls, have a small field of view. In a face to face you can get up, walk around, stretch, write on a whiteboard, but with Zoom, you are more likely sitting down, staring straight ahead, close enough to reach your keyboard. Being that sedentary is not great for your health.
Of course there are solutions to these issues, the most obvious being to turn off your camera, some of the time at least. Not only does that stop you looking at yourself, but it also gives you a break from being non-verbally active. Or don’t always use the full-screen option – minimise and shrink those faces. And in between calls, get up and walk around! The other solution is don’t video conference so much. Some companies are already bringing in ‘Zoom-free’ days, to allow their staff a rest.
At AS&K we encourage our people to avoid booking lunchtime meetings, so everyone can take a proper break, maybe go outside, or just get away from the screen.
We also encourage meetings to be 25 minutes instead of 30, so if you are on back to back calls, you have a chance to turn off for 5 mins, make that cup of coffee, stretch your legs, stop looking at yourself.
But there’s no getting away from the fact that from now on video conferencing is going to play a far larger part of our work life, and even our personal lives. We all need to think how we can protect our mental and physical health, given this incredibly unnatural situation.
So you’ll excuse me if I don’t turn my camera on today, or even – heaven forbid – actually decline that one extra meeting you’re trying to squeeze in.
#zoomfatigue #mentalhealth #workwellness