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Zoom Fatigue: Why Video Conferencing Is Exhausting And Mentally Draining & What You Can Do To Alleviate The Pain

Why are we all so tired after a video call? We used to be so fresh and spritely but our brains are calling out for a nap as soon as we hang up nowadays!

For those of you, like myself, who has been on countless Zoom calls or video conferences, it’s safe to agree that ‘Zoom fatigue’ is definitely a thing. No matter the contents of the meeting, quiz or chat, there’s some kind of exhaustive and mentally-draining effect that they have on you.

But why is it more draining than the normal face-to-face interaction that seems like such a distant memory? *sobs*

Why are video calls & Zoom’s so mentally draining?

Well, you might not realise it, but you’re definitely feeling it… our brains are working MUCH harder in these video chats. 

We’ve got to work harder to process the likes of non-verbal communication like facial expressions and the tone/pitch of a voice because there are some questionable microphones and laggy cameras out there.

It’s also harder to read body language because for a majority of the time you’re only limited to the crop of someone’s profile, and despite all the advice in the world, some people still sit with their back to the window and become bond villains. 

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And, unlike real life, there’s almost always a slight delay when video chatting. This small delay, even of about 1.2 seconds, can make you feel like the person you’re speaking to isn’t as friendly, or even listening at all – rude, right? It also doesn’t help with the whole accidentally-speaking-over-each-other problem we have probably all faced. We’re not trying to be rude, honest!

With the ability to see your own face in that tiny little preview window, you find yourself often looking at yourself, or being hyper-aware that people are watching you. This can cause you to feel a bit anxious and nervy, and you’ll find you spend more time being aware of yourself than you do of the other person in the call.

Our poor poor brains! They’re working overdrive on all of that, as well as stressing about the current pandemic AND probably working harder than ever to manage all of the other things life’s throwing at us right now.

All of this, and more, is why you’ll be experiencing the likes of ‘Zoom fatigue’. You want to unplug your brain and pop in charge in a dark cupboard, just to give it some space, right?

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Not to mention, the sheer number of calls, meetings and family quizzes there actually are! Are you meeting more now that there’s no stress of finding a meeting room? Or less? 

Productivity levels within these meetings can be questionable. But, with the right planning and structure, video conferencing can be much more productive than meetings in person. However, with the current situation, we see a hundred and ten distractions that include the kids, nosey housemates, poor camera dodging “ninjas”, all that’s mentioned above and the dreaded act of going off on a tangent.

As soon as you hang up the call you need to yawn, stretch and zone out – but the pace of the world right now means your next video chat isn’t far away and that Zoom nap will have to wait.

So, how do we alleviate some of the pain and make them less exhausting?

The first thing you’ll want to do is cut down on any distractions that will cause your cognitive workload to work in overdrive and lessen your attention in the right areas. Remove these things and it’ll just be like your average face-to-face conversation!

And who better to hear advice from, than fellow sufferers? 

“For me, booking my video meetings so they’re not back-to-back is one of the biggest helps in making them less taxing. This is totally different to what I do in the office, I hate the weird 15-minute breaks between meetings, but now it gives me a second to have a breather, get a drink and reset myself.”

– Liz Quinn

 

“Setting an agenda ahead of video calls and Zooms, making sure there is a clear desired outcome really helps. That and when we avoid tangents! However, the thing about tangents, is that even though they take up time, they’re often the most actionable and useful part of the meeting! Removing all tangents removes all flexibility. #FirstWorld Problems”

– Chris Hirlemann

 

“Learn to say no.” (solid advice) “Block out your calendar for deep thinking work so people cannot just book over your allocated time if it looks free in the calendar. Being more remote means there’s more scope to look at peoples calendars and book a call, so make sure your calendar is organised and reflective.”

– Mersudin Forbes

 

“I’ve learned that sometimes it’s ok to turn your video off. With video calls when you can see yourself all the time, you’re constantly on edge and scrutinising yourself which is something you don’t have face-to-face. The calls where I am presenting, I find it easier because I can’t see myself and don’t worry about what I look like, so focus on the work itself.”

– Holly Cooke

 

“To help big group calls from being too taxing, divide up the meetings into relevant break out rooms so all can participate actively, eliminating ‘inactive’ time for attendees and causing them to become bored or distracted.”

– Danny Windsor

 

“If you don’t live alone, then communicating with your housemates, family, partner etc. to respect your need to work is useful. Letting them know when you have important meetings where they may need to respect your privacy a bit more can be a big help with regards to becoming distracted.”

– Daniel Otway

 

“To add to Daniel’s comment, my family spend a lot of time tip-toeing past me, so we have a system where I let them know when they can make noise again. There tends to be a burst of excitement when they can be loud again. Allowing me and my fellow caller to concentrate makes it a lot less mentally draining, and less exhausting telling family members to shhh.”

– Chris Hirlemann

 

“If you’re tired, mentally or physically from the number of video calls, just double-check another call is actually needed. During these times we’re all guilty of wanting a bit of human interaction for the sake of it which means sometimes we overdo it. Cut it down to the essentials and let your brain breathe. People will understand.”

– Amber Vellacott (that’s me, you’re welcome)

 

“I probably do, on average, five to six Zoom/video calls a day at the moment. I’m totally shattered by the end of each day. I think for me, it is the multi-tasking element of monitoring what’s happening, listening and checking my camera to make sure I’m sat up straight that makes it so exhausting. We need to learn to concentrate on one thing at a time.”

– Luke Quilter

 

It would seem that the key to making Zooms and video calls less exhausting is as simple as communicating and organising your time. Who’d have thought it?

And, you know… not everything HAS to be a video call. Why not just pick up the phone like the good old days? We’ve got years of practice doing that!

Go on, go have yourself a Zoom nap, rest that wearily drained brain and start afresh with a more conscious approach based on what you read above.

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