When APSA members made the move to remote work due to the pandemic, our IT staff quickly adopted Zoom, a video conferencing platform that made the mandatory changes much more viable. Zoom feels like a blessing and sometimes a curse. We can meet and stay connected, yet we all come up against back-to-back meetings on the platform, and many of us experience what's been dubbed "Zoom fatigue".
Why do we find video meetings so tiring?
There are both physiological and mental reasons that so many of us suffer from Zoom fatigue. One of these is that we process information differently over video than in-person. At in-person meetings, we rarely stare at our presenter plus all of the meeting's attendees all at once and at a close distance. At in-person meetings, we take notes, ask for clarification of our neighbour and use our ears more than our eyes to show that we're listening. Making eye contact for a few seconds while a person is speaking is good; staring at them the way we do over Zoom is usually not acceptable.
Another reason is how our brain processes information. When multiple people are on the call, scanning several rectangles for facial and body language is mentally tiring. We usually have a predetermined, culturally acceptable amount of personal space in physical spaces, such as meeting spaces, elevators or around tables. Most people are not sitting a meter or so away from you while holding a more "intimate" gaze in real life. In Zoom meetings, your brain perceives that you are in very close proximity to the attendees, who are all staring at you, which may trigger your stress response. Pair that with our inability to take the visual breaks we need to refocus, and it's understandable why these types of meetings tire us out.
Finally, your computer itself makes it easier to be distracted during a meeting. Have you ever thought you needed to reply to Slack or an email while at a Zoom meeting? If you have, you're not alone. During the pandemic, caring for children or other vulnerable persons, working from your dining tables or high traffic areas and working in close quarters with a partner or roommates makes it even harder to focus on your video meetings.
What are the symptoms of video meeting fatigue?
We have touched upon the distraction and the mental overload of Zoom calls, but there are more possible symptoms:
- Feeling more burnt out or tired at the end of the day than usual
- Tiredness between calls
- Feeling anxious during the calls
- Eyestrain or irritation
- Feeling anxious when turning your camera on
If you feel these symptoms are due to constant video calls, there are ways to reduce your tiredness.
How do you stop Zoom fatigue?
Here are some strategies that may help you mitigate your video call fatigue.
- Shut down or minimize your other windows and turn off notifications from other apps. It's easy to open up your emails or read a slack message if a notification pops up or your email is open, but multitasking is one way you're making yourself tired.
- Build time away from video calls into your schedule. This will give you breaks away from the extra mental focus needed for video calls.
- Limit the number of Zoom meetings you schedule. This is especially hard for APSA members and the APSA office staff, but if you are experiencing Zoom fatigue, check to see if you absolutely must attend.
- Hide your self-view. We usually don't see what we look like at in-person meetings, and seeing yourself on a video call is both distracting and mentally taxing as you're judging how others perceive you. If you're comfortable with turning off your self-view on Zoom, it can reduce your mental load during a video meeting.
This is not an exhaustive list of strategies, but it may be a start to help you cope with Zoom fatigue or be understanding when a colleague adopts one or more of these tactics.
Here are references on why Zoom fatigue is real and other strategies on how to cope:
https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-zoom-meetings-ca… do virtual meetings cause fatigue?