Many of us continue to work from home due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and as such, our calendars remain filled with Zoom meetings. Whether it’s the daily team catch-up, the monthly activity review meeting, or a brainstorming session for an upcoming project. Some employees may find themselves involved in more Zoom meetings than they would in a normal office setting, and more exhausted after their workday as a result.
Why are Zoom meetings so exhausting?
1. Our brains have to work harder
Connecting with our colleagues via video may seem easy but it requires more energy to read ‘virtual rooms’. BBC previously chatted to Gianpiero Petrigilieri, an associate professor at Instead who explores sustainable learning and development in the workplace, and he explained that, ‘video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. The dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally.’
2. Zoom meetings often have timing and tech issues
A scheduled 30-minute Zoom catch-up can easily turn into an hour+ meeting due to distractions, conversations going beyond the initial agenda, and of course, tech issues like poor Wi-Fi, frozen screens, issues with screen-sharing, software crashes and more. These issues easily add another layer of stress to your mind and body.
3. We’re always seeing our reflection
With many Zoom meetings requiring participants to have the camera on, we’re not only looking at our colleagues’ faces, our own one stares back at us too. Staring at your face for long periods of time (while knowing that several other people are also staring at you) makes you very aware of your appearance and it’s easy to spend periods of the meeting focusing on the pressures of being on camera rather than what’s being discussed. This pressure results in feeling the need to be ‘always on’, for example, being aware of your appearance, the space behind you on camera, and ensuring you act accordingly because unlike in-person meetings, you feel you’re always being watched by the faces in squares.
4. It’s easy to get distracted
At in-person meetings, you’re fully present but with Zoom meetings there’s always the temptation to keep working, for example, to check an email or finish writing a report. It can be very difficult to give your full attention when you see notifications coming in.
How can you combat Zoom fatigue?
Zoom fatigue is a term used to describe the exhaustion caused by constant video calls. If you’re feeling this, here are some tips to combat it:
- Have ‘no meeting’ time blocks
Book off blocks of time for working in your calendar and stick to them. Set your calendar up so that your team can see when you’re busy and free and meetings can be organised around this. A good idea is to chat to your team and try implement either a meeting-free day or have only one day where team members are allowed to book meetings.
- Always have an agenda
No video call should be without an agenda – it’s too easy to get distracted and go beyond the scheduled time. For all video calls, make sure there is a clear agenda which outlines the purpose of the meeting and key areas/actions to be discussed. This makes the calls more efficient and productive.
- Say ‘no’ to certain meetings
Meetings that are organised at short notice, on projects/campaigns that you’re not directly involved in or with people who haven’t fully prepared are a waste of your time and energy. Learn to say ‘no’ to these meeting requests or at least ask for further details on the purpose of the meeting to help you determine if you need to be involved or not.
- Chat less, text more
Doing more text-based communications is an easy way to cut down on video calls. They’re less disruptive and give you more time to think out your ideas/thoughts. For example, instead of organising a creative brainstorming session for an upcoming project, set up a text-based chat first where the team can share ideas.
- Schedule breaks
In-person meetings involve room changes and breaks for coffee/tea. However, on days with back-to-back Zoom calls, you might find it hard to find time for a mental, visual and physical break. It’s important you recognise and communicate the need for a break. Grab a coffee/tea, stretch, go to the bathroom, have a snack – your body and mind need a break away from the screen to refresh and refocus.
- Make meetings shorter
Short meetings that are organised with a clear structure and agenda are often more effective than long ones. Where possible, try using a 30-minute time period for all meetings – this leaves little room for off topic discussion and ensures that all points on the agenda are ticked off.
- Hide ‘self-view’
For meetings where being off camera isn’t an option, hide self-view. The other meeting participants will see you, but you won’t spend the whole meeting focusing on what you look like.