Zoom Fatigue: What It Is and How to Alleviate It

Video conferencing is draining: Here’s why and what you can do about it

Zoom fatigue is a form of mental strain caused by excessive video conferencing. It's not limited to Zoom. The term applies to any video conferencing service, including Google Meet, GoToMeeting, Skype, and others, but the Zoom moniker stuck because of the service's popularity. 

What Causes Zoom Fatigue?

Like computer eye strain, Zoom fatigue is partly caused by staring at a computer (or smartphone) screen. It's also taxing to the brain in a few ways, including a lack of visual cues and overstimulation.

Body Language

You might not realize how much you depend on body language and other cues that are easy to pick up in person but difficult or impossible over a video conference. Similarly, many people rely on a form of lip reading to help them "hear" better. If the video and audio don't match up, that also wreaks havoc on the brain.

Your body language plays a part too. When you're all in the same room, people understand you're still paying attention even if you glance out the window or looks over your notes. But if you're not staring directly into the camera on a video call, it can look like you're not listening. But continuously staring at the same thing isn't natural and can also be exceptionally draining.

Visual Stimuli

It's also more challenging to take in all the visual stimuli over video than in person.

According to National Geographic, "Gallery view—where all meeting participants appear Brady Bunch-style—challenges the brain's central vision, forcing it to decode so many people at once that no one comes through meaningfully, not even the speaker."

Interruptions

Finally, it's not possible to have side conversations or ask to look at your neighbor's notes as you can in a conference room, and it's hard to interject. The constant false starts and talking over one another kills the momentum.

How to Alleviate Zoom Fatigue

The ways to ease or avoid Zoom fatigue are all about reducing brain strain. Methods include cutting down on visual stimuli, maintaining focus, and taking frequent breaks. The tips below can also help with in-person meetings.

  1. Keep video meetings short and focused. Ideally, they should not run longer than an hour without a break. If it's your meeting, set up a clear agenda; if it's someone else's meeting, ask for a summary. Avoid doing other activities while attending meetings.

  2. Turn your camera off when you're not speaking. This way, you don't have to worry about where you're looking or what kind of face you're making. Go to Settings > Video > Turn off video when joining a meeting to start meetings without video. If you must be on camera, hide the video of yourself so you don't have to worry about getting distracted.

  3. If available, use speaker view rather than grid or gallery view, so you don't have to see everyone at once.

  4. Take frequent computer breaks. Block off times before and after meetings to step away from the screen.

  5. Limit video meetings. Figure out what you do over chat, email, or a regular phone call before opting for a video call. Work with your colleagues to set aside days of the week where there don't be any video meetings so everyone can focus on other work.

  6. Cut down on meeting size. Limiting your invite list can help keep meetings short and focused. If you must have a large gathering, consider using breakout rooms.

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