How to combat Zoom fatigue

Too many video calls can have a detrimental impact on employees, says Alice Venables, but there are ways to avoid this negative aspect of remote working

How to combat Zoom fatigue

The coronavirus pandemic and nationwide lockdowns have affected people in myriad ways, but many of us have become used to the new normal that is working from home and interacting with colleagues virtually. Joining online video calls has become as habitual as walking into a meeting room. However, after a day of back-to-back video calls, we often feel totally exhausted – as such, the term ‘Zoom fatigue’ has been coined. This fatigue can bleed into many aspects of work life, often resulting in lower productivity and energy, which is essential to maintain without the surroundings of the office to stimulate and motivate you.

There are several reasons video calls can feel more tiring than face-to-face ones. In face-to-face conversation, we rely heavily on non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, tone of voice and pitch to judge how best to behave in that situation and allow the conversation to flow naturally. On video calls, however, our brains are working much harder to read people’s expressions and body language, especially if their video quality is poor or you can only see their face.

In addition, whether you mean to or not, you may end up spending most of your hour-long video call staring at your own face. This can be stressful and tiring, as you are in full view of everyone and hyper-aware of your own appearance and facial expressions, and how others perceive you. Then there are the technical hitches, including echoes, freezing and that one person on the call who always has a poor connection – often making it even harder to communicate and interact as you normally would. 

Here are four steps you can take to tackle the dreaded Zoom fatigue: 

Introduce video call blackout initiatives

A simple solution to tackling Zoom fatigue is to reduce the amount of time people spend on video calls – though this is often easier said than done. One way to do this company wide is to block out an afternoon each week in everyone’s diary to be a video call and meeting-free time. Encourage your employees to protect this time and make the most of the silence, to be productive and creative.

Explore alternative methods of communication

There are times when a video call is necessary and also welcomed, as it can be easier to solve a problem when people can see and interact with each other. However, there are times when video calls might not actually be necessary at all – the whole meeting could be an email conversation or a simple five-minute phone call.

When setting up meetings, employees should ask themselves whether it needs to be a video call. This will help to cut out any unnecessary calls that could lead to lower energy levels for the rest of the day. 

Allow for breaks 

Pre Covid-19, in between meetings we might grab a coffee, have a light-hearted chat with colleagues, stretch our legs or move to a different meeting room. It is harder to do that at home, but not impossible. Encourage your employees to allow breaks in between calls to refresh and avoid back-to-back video calls where possible.

Don’t lose the social aspect 

For many people, office space is not always a reflection of productivity, but is a place you share with your co-workers and often signifies collaboration and friendship. People seek purpose, peer-to-peer interactions and somewhere to meet and be inspired by other people working. It’s a good idea to incorporate social catch-ups as part of a working day, to recreate that five-minute chat with your colleague at the coffee machine and to keep those bonds strong. 

Alice Venables is a behavioural planning expert at Behave