What is zoom fatigue?

Have you ever gone out with a friend for a walk or a drink and maintained eye contact the whole time you were hanging out? Probably not. You’ll likely observe your surroundings, your friend’s body language, and make natural pauses in your conversation. Just like everybody else.

Although this is how human interactions usually look and feel, video calls made a few notable changes to how we interact with others. They created a somewhat new (and yet very familiar) meeting etiquette that caused unexplainable tiredness and lack of energy. Soon enough it became officially recognized as “zoom fatigue”.

To some, this caused additional stress beyond the one they might’ve felt before an important business call. To others, it was a walk in the park. Nonetheless, zoom fatigue is here to stay, and if you’re feeling it, here’s what you can do about it.

How to combat zoom fatigue the right way (4 effective tips)

1. Turn off your camera if you aren’t speaking

Among four main causes of zoom fatigue that Stanford researchers found, one was excessive eye contact. Video calls don’t just put the speaker in the spotlight. They put everyone. This causes a lot of stress, especially for people that don’t necessarily enjoy that much attention. One quick solution to that is turning off your camera if you aren’t actively contributing. A lot of people get too caught up in how they’re perceived by others that they lose track of what the meeting is actually about. This is a very effective way to reduce that pressure and actually focus on what’s important. When you’re asked to speak, simply turn on your camera and act as if it’s happening in a traditional office setting.

2. Minimize your video call screen

Video calls that are taking a great portion of your screen tend to feel a bit invasive. As if the person you’re communicating with is somehow violating your personal space. Psychologically this causes a great deal of discomfort you may not even be aware of. Experiences like that are usually very tiresome and will most likely leave you feeling exhausted at the end. The best way to deal with this is to simply minimize the video call screen, or increase the resolution of your desktop device. This way, you’re allowing enough space between yourself and other attendees to make things feel more natural and less intrusive.

3. Walk around the room

Studies have shown that walking increases cognitive performance. If your camera is turned off, consider getting yourself a Bluetooth headset and walk around the room. Not only does it reduce the stress you might be feeling, it also allows you to think and perceive a bit sharper than you normally would. Another solution to this is placing your camera in a way that allows you to pace while participating in the meeting. If you’re using a laptop, then it might be time to consider buying an external camera.

4. Turn your head away from the screen and just listen

This point was brilliantly portrayed by Bailenson, professor of communication at Stanford University who stated that nodding in an exaggerated way for a few extra seconds or looking directly into the camera can cause an unnecessary cognitive load. This applies to both doing these and receiving these. Usually, video meetings are a combination of both which proves why they can be tiresome. To avoid wasting mental energy (at least to some extend), turn your head away from the screen if your camera is turned off and try to participate in the meeting by just listening. This will reduce the amount of cognitive load you’re receiving from less-meaningful interactions and help you focus on what really matters.

Key takeaways

Turn off your camera if you aren’t speaking and try to look away from the screen from time to time. This will reduce the number of distractions you get by worrying about how you’re perceived during the meeting. If you aren’t in a position to turn your camera off or look away from the screen, reduce the size of the video call and make it less intrusive to your own personal space. If that doesn’t work, consider physically distancing yourself away from the screen and bring your keyboard or mouse with you. If possible, set up an external camera in a way that lets you pace around your home office to help boost your cognitive performance.

If all else fails, hop on a call with us and we’ll show you a few tricks we’ve learned along the way as a fully remote, worldwide company.  

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