Feeling Zoomed Out? – Advice for the fatigued

Do you remember when a videoconference was an infrequent occurrence – something special that you looked forward to? Whilst being locked down, video-calling gave us a way to see each other, even when we couldn’t be with each other.

The novelty wears thin

My first few months of the pandemic were filled with virtual business meetings, virtual learning, virtual happy hour, and even virtual board game nights. As a result, the boundaries between the various parts of my life have become blurred. While work, friends, and family used to all have their separate space, they are now all muddled together, overlapping, and fighting for screen priority. 

After 15 months of living in a virtual world, the novelty has started to wear off. I am getting tired of having to make myself and my home camera-ready at a moment’s notice, and evening video calls with family and friends have started to feel like work meetings. 

What is more, I am finding that I am exhausted at the end of my workday and since 2021 kicked off, comments of ‘Zoom fatigue’ have popped up more and more frequently in my conversations (though this exhaustion also applies if you’re using Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime, or any other video-calling interface). 

I’ve found that several factors make virtual meetings legitimately exhausting. They are more demanding cognitively than face-to-face meetings, which rely a lot on visual cues. It is easy to tell if people are paying attention, whether someone wants to speak, whether they are agreeing or disagreeing, and so forth. In a Zoom meeting, it is much more challenging to gauge people, even if people are explicitly nodding or raising their hands, it takes extra effort to scan through all the participants. 

Videoconferencing advice

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to make the most of remote working while preserving your energy (and sanity).

1. Eliminate Distractions

This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but you might be more distracted during your virtual meetings than you realise. Many distractions are not always present in face-to-face meetings – from being self-conscious about one’s appearance or home to impromptu appearances from children and pets. But it’s not only others in your house who could cause a distraction. Making sure that your mobile is silent and your email notifications are off will help also eliminate distractions.

2. Avoid Multitasking

It is tempting to respond to emails or work on the laptop; if you’re muted, no one will notice. But, before responding to an email or looking over notes for a project, ask yourself if it can wait until there’s a break. Permit yourself to concentrate on one task at a time. 

3. Adjust Your Screen Settings 

Choose ‘Speaker View’. You can select the Speaker View so you only focus on the person who is talking. This keeps you from constantly looking at others on the call. It’s easier to see who’s talking and more closely mimics how we focus on a current speaker in a group conversation.

4. Allow Time Before You Tackle Your Agenda

If you’re the one leading the Zoom call, send everyone an agenda and relevant documents. Ask them to review this information before the meeting. A shared screen or a shared document can be really helpful for keeping everyone on the same page.

If you haven’t met in a while, schedule a few minutes for catching up before the meeting start to help everyone get into the meeting mindset and, if required, open relevant documents and view the agenda. 

5. Take a Break After a Zoom Meeting

If you were working in an office, then you’d usually have a gap between a previous meeting and the next one. You would also take breaks to make a coffee or speak to a colleague. But when you are working from home you must consciously create new opportunities for yourself to de-stress throughout the day.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be able to avoid ’Zoom fatigue’. You’ll have a much more balanced schedule, better sleep, less disruption, and you’ll feel more in charge of your daily life as a whole. With so much uncertainty in the world right now, it’s more important than ever to create for ourselves a joyful and energised state of being and not burn ourselves out.

Ketan Dattani

Ketan holds over 20 years of recruitment experience and has a high profile within the sector. Widely documented as an expert on Employment Law, Employee rights and for providing Careers Advice, Ketan is a graduate of Environmental Biology and post-graduate of Environmental Planning and Management, with certificates in Employment Law and Recruitment Practice - both nationally recognised recruitment qualifications developed jointly by the REC and key employers.