Does it ever feel like you spend some days going from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting? Exhausting, isn’t it! It’s been just over a year since the United States invoked social distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many of us still needed to work from home, however. Enter the Zoom meeting.
Of course, some people used Zoom and similar platforms prior to the pandemic; but the number and complexity of virtual meetings taking place skyrocketed in the early weeks of the shutdown. Many people also use these apps to stay in touch with friends and family outside of working hours. The result is a pervasive mental, physical, and emotional fatigue that threatens productivity and wellbeing. So what can we do to avoid – and reverse – the symptoms of Zoom fatigue? Try these suggestions:
Keep meetings short and to the point
Even before going virtual, we all occasionally suffered through meetings that felt unproductive. While thoughtful planning can help keep meetings on-track, it’s important to remember that you can’t use the same techniques for virtual meetings that you do for in-person ones. For more productive Zoom calls, consider the following limits:
- Attendees: 3 to 6
- Agenda Points: 2 to 3
- Meeting Time: 20 to 30 minutes
Also, don’t forget that just because you can have a Zoom meeting doesn’t mean you should. Phone calls, text chats, and emails are viable options for many communication and collaboration needs.
Avoid back-to-back meetings when possible
Back in the “good old days,” going to a meeting usually involved getting up and walking to someone’s office or a conference room or driving to a client’s office. Now that meetings are virtual, it’s tempting to schedule them back to back. After all, it’s not like we can get that much accomplished in 10 or 15 minutes, right? I even have colleagues who set aside one day a week to schedule all their virtual meetings … in the name of productivity, of course.
Sitting for extended periods of time, though — especially if you have to remain very still to stay in frame on a camera or in range of a mike — can be incredibly fatiguing. Schedule your virtual meetings with at least short breaks between them to get up and stretch, walk around your home office, run to the restroom, or grab a snack or drink. Better still, go outside for a few minutes to let the natural light and fresh air recharge your batteries.
If you host a meeting that goes on for more than 30 minutes, include a short break and encourage everyone to get up and stretch. (Hint: Turning off the cameras will encourage people to participate!)
Address technical issues promptly
Nothing ramps up the stress of a Zoom call like technical difficulties! Whether it’s lag times, weird echoes, or problematic lighting — they seem more urgent (and embarrassing) when everyone is watching you. Fortunately, most technical issues can be fixed fairly easily, so why live with them week after week?
If you or your company can afford it, invest in quality equipment and leave it set up to avoid last-minute scrambles. And be careful about allowing other family members, especially children, to use your equipment. They likely know how to do a lot of things on your phone or laptop that you don’t know how to undo quickly. You don’t want to wind up a cat, after all!
Keep work and social calls separate
One of the things we miss about being in our offices is the camaraderie with colleagues. It can be tempting, then, to wrap up meetings with a little social interaction or (worse) take a “few minutes to catch up” before getting down to business. Blurring the line between a meeting and a live-chat can make it awkward for people who have other tasks awaiting their attention. At what point can they log off without seeming rude or anti-social?
If your staff wants to get together for a little relaxation or team-building, that’s great; but make it its own event. Purely social get-togethers should always be optional, with no repercussions or “hurt feelings” for not participating. Alternately, you can use asynchronous options like texts or emails to stay in touch. Just be sure to use a separate thread from work-related communications to avoid the need to respond to every “ding.”
Be aware of your total screen time
Business meetings aren’t the only thing that’s gone virtual. Many workers are also home-schooling their children, trying to meet the social needs of their elders, using telemedicine services, attending virtual conferences and education sessions, etc. Add to that binging your favorite streaming service over take-out instead of going out for dinner and a movie, and the time spent staring at glowing screens really begins to add up.
In addition to the negative impact of sitting, or even standing, still for long periods, excessive screen time can result in eye strain. Additionally, exposure to the blue light from electronic devices can disrupt circadian rhythms, causing difficulty sleeping. Lack of proper rest in turn can contribute to depression, obesity, and chronic health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.
The loss of control over our lives is a major source of stress in the post-pandemic world. No one knows for sure when, or if, things will get back to “normal.” Don’t let the technologies meant to help you manage during these strange times overrun your life and become the cause of even more stress. It’s your time after all. Don’t be afraid to say, Sorry, I can’t do a Zoom meeting today. Can we handle this another way or time?
For more tips on combating Zoom fatigue, check out these articles:
- Zoom Burnout Is Real. Here Are 4 Practical Ways to Cope, by Lindsay Blakely
- The reason Zoom calls drain your energy, by Manyu Jiang
- Zoom Burnout, by Bryan E. Robinson Ph.D.
- How to Combat Zoom Fatigue, by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy