When the pandemic started, Zoom felt like a miraculous solution to stay connected with customers, coworkers and vendors. There I was, propelled into everyone’s kitchen, home office or bedroom. As I think about it now, that is completely crazy. When have you ever walked into a colleague’s bedroom to discuss an urgent project or contract negotiation? I am assuming never. I wrote a post on the benefits of making your bed every day, it is even more apropos now if you are officing from your bedroom. It has become incredibly intimate. Sometimes it feels voyeuristic as I try and make out the titles on someone’s bookcase, or make note of whether their range is gas or electric. Frequently, it is way too much information on people I barely know, yet this is the new normal.
All this Zooming, Teaming or Webex-ing is exhausting. I have several clients that are physically spent after endless back-to-back calls. As written in the Harvard Business Review by Fosslien and Duffy, “Zoom fatigue stems from how we process information over video. On a video call the only way to show we’re paying attention is to look at the camera. But, in real life, how often do you stand within three feet of a colleague and stare at their face? Probably never. This is because having to engage in a ‘constant gaze’ makes us uncomfortable — and tired. In person, we are able to use our peripheral vision to glance out the window or look at others in the room.” Now I realize why I position my laptop screen with a view outside over the top of the screen. I am trying to catch a quick break while trying to look engaged.
Here are 5 ways to fight Zoom fatigue:
- Uni-task. Focus on the call. Close out browsers, tabs and apps and focus on the meeting in front of you. Put your phone on a desk five feet away. Task switching is not only obvious to others on the call but it is stressing you out. As tempting as it is to clean out your emails or respond to your Slack channel, the end result will be depleting. As written in HBR, “It’s easy to think that you can use the opportunity to do more in less time, but research shows that trying to do multiple things at once cuts into performance. Because you have to turn certain parts of your brain off and on for different types of work, switching between tasks can cost you as much as 40 percent of your productive time.” Stop multitasking.
- Move. Figure out how to incorporate movement into your day. It might be a treadmill desk or stationary bike during inclement weather or perhaps it’s taking a call by phone (sans video) while you take a walk around the block. I’ve had several clients commit to figuring out how to take at least one meeting a day while walking outside. Movement releases tension and increases your mood. If it’s impossible to incorporate movement into your workday, at least get outside at the end of your day, or on the weekend. This closes your stress loop which helps eliminate burnout. Move; preferably outside.
- Breaks. This can be done just visually for a few moments or turn off your video feed while you aren’t speaking. As I mentioned, I position my screen so that I can look out a window right above it to take a visual break. As written in HBR, “We’re all more used to being on video now (and to the stressors that come with nonstop facetime). Your colleagues probably understand more than you think — it is possible to listen without staring at the screen for a full thirty minutes. This is not an invitation to start doing something else, but to let your eyes rest for a moment.” Incorporate five-to-fifteen-minute breaks between meetings or suggesting a break at the midpoint of a multi-hour meeting. Take a break.
- Work Clothes. I have kept a schedule of taking a shower and preparing for work as usual; as if I’m going into the office. I put on earrings and my Zoom top. From the waist down it’s yoga pants and socks but it’s all business, waist up. As Vanessa Van Edwards writes for The Science of People, “Studies show that clothes change both the way people feel and how they are perceived. It’ll also help you de-stress once you put on your ‘home’ outfit. Over time, your subconscious will associate your work clothes and home clothes differently, switching your brain into ‘go’ mode when you put on your work clothes and switching it to ‘off’ mode when you change the outfit.” Switching clothes helps punctuate the day the way your commute did last year. Put on work clothes.
- Phone. Just because you can Zoom a colleague any time of the day or night, doesn’t mean you should. I try to send a quick message asking if a colleague has time to Zoom but don’t just go barging in with Zoom if a phone call could be quicker or less intrusive. As written in HBR, “Check your calendar for the next few days to see if there are any conversations you could have over Slack or email instead. If 4PM rolls around and you’re Zoomed-out but have an upcoming one-on-one, ask the person to switch to a phone call or suggest picking up the conversation later so you can both recharge. Try something like, “I’d love a break from video calls. Do you mind if we do this over the phone?” Most likely the other person will be relieved by the switch, too.” It feels so old school to chat by phone but from my coaching practice, I have found that some folks open up more when it feels more anonymous, perhaps like a confessional. Rethink defaulting to video.
I never thought that I would still be working remotely in May of 2021, yet here I am pulling up to a standing meeting at 7:30 AM with my coffee cup in hand and my Zoom top on. I certainly feel more connected to those I see every day regardless of location. The secret is to incorporate ways to stay energized. What ways do you fight Zoom fatigue?