How to Avoid Zoom Fatigue


Excerpted from the Harvard Business Review

Feeling drained or exhausted after a day of Zoom-based classes, work sessions or org meetings? You’re not alone!  Video calls force us to be more intentionally focused on conversations in order to learn and absorb information. Asking questions and requesting clarifications is harder and it’s more difficult to concentrate and process thoughts while constantly staring at others and trying to appear engaged. Plus, being able to see ourselves at all times makes us hyper-aware of every expression and how it might be interpreted.

The good news is that researchers have identified five tips to help make video calls less exhausting.

1. Avoid Multitasking

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, multitaskers can’t remember things as well as those that are focused. The next time you’re on a video chat, close any tabs or programs that might distract you, put your phone away, and stay present. Wile the temptation is great, remind yourself that waiting a few more minutes you can move on to the next thing and do it far better than while trying to Zoom and say, craft a detailed email to your group project members. For classes, in particular for classes, try and write down notes.  Research shows that taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and these efforts foster comprehension and retention.

2. Build in Breaks

If you have small windows of time get up and take a brief walk around your apartment, get a drink of water or even do some chair yoga. If you have back-to-back calls, consider minimizing the window, moving it behind your open applications, or just looking away from your computer completely for a few seconds now and then. And don’t worry – people understand the need for breaks and that you can listen without staring at the screen for a full thirty minutes.

3. Reduce onscreen stimuli

Research shows that when you’re on video, you tend to spend the most time gazing at your own face. Avoided this by simply hiding yourself from view. Onscreen distractions can also include others’ backgrounds as well. It’s easy to find yourself trying to read a poster on the wall of book title on a shelf.  Since the brain has to process all of these visual environmental cues at the same time, try and encourage people to use plain backgrounds (e.g. a poster of a peaceful beach scene), if possible.

4. Carefully consider virtual social events

Don’t feel compelled to join virtual social sessions, particularly if you feel drained and/or are an introvert. Plus, online social events can be awkward, so if you plan one for a group or student organization, be sure to have a facilitator so the group doesn’t start talking all at once or sit around in silence.  It’s easy to feel anxious about what you are expected to do or say so  so make sure that is shared at the beginning to make it truly enjoyable.

5. Switch to phone calls or emails

Consider if any of your non-class meetings could be done over email or phone or Zoom sans video. Take the initiative to say 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(s) will be relieved by the switch, too.  Most people treat video as the default for all communication, but it doesn’t have to be.  Especially when it’s people you don’t know very well, consider a phone call as a better alternative.

Some of these steps are easier than others, but implementing some changes can help you prevent feeling so exhausted at the thought of another video chat. It’s tiring enough trying to adapt to this new normal. Make video calls a little easier for yourself!