Turns out, staring at a screen all day is tough. Here’s how you can prevent Zoom fatigue.
A few months ago, Zoom was an unknown entity. Now, it’s our life (kidding…not kidding). We Zoom meetings, school, university and even birthday parties. And, sure, for a while we enjoyed the novelty. We laughed at the virtual backgrounds and wondered at the productivity of potential. But now, we’re tired. Psychologists have found the reason. Zoom fatigue is real. Given that we’re likely to be stuck Zooming for a while yet, it’s important that we get to grips with the issues at hand. Let’s find a way to love Zoom for what it is – and not hate it for what it’s not. Let’s use this platform well and protect our mental and physical health.
Why is Zoom so exhausting?
You’re two hours into an eight-hour work day. You’ve had a few Zoom meetings, back to back. And you’re absolutely exhausted. You can’t face another one. By the time the end of the day comes around, your eyes hurt and you’ve got a thumping headache. You feel emotionally drained. It’s straight to bed – or time for a Netflix binge. Why does Zoom tire us out so much?
Zoom fatigue is real. There’s a few factors behind this phenomenon:
1. Face-to-face communication, from a distance.
Zoom fatigue is the result of the human brain trying to communicate face-to-face without actually being face-to-face. Usually when we speak to someone, our brains are processing millions of pieces of information. Most of it is non-verbal: facial expressions, body language and more. Communication is a complex process. Zoom essentially tricks the brain into thinking we’re engaging in face-to-face communication. Our brains are working hard to get all the relevant information. But most of it is missing.
We can’t effectively read the facial expressions, body language, tone of voice or spatial positioning of those we’re chatting to. Instead we’re relying on a much more limited scope of information. Subconsciously our brains are busy trying to collect this information from wherever we can – scanning the screen and only giving partial attention to what is actually happening. That is tiring.
2. Disappointing communication.
Humans crave connection. We’re built for community and communication. We need other people to help us understand ourselves and the world around us. Every interaction, big or small, contributes to this. Zoom is not the same thing as in-person interaction. We desire to be in the same room as others. We want to share experiences. Communication is more than just conversations. So Zoom often fails to ‘fill our tank’. We walk away from every video call feeling a little bit dissatisfied. Over time, this tires us out. Our deeply foundational desires are left unmet – and that takes its toll.
3. Square eyes.
Remember what your Mum used to say, ‘Don’t sit so close to the TV, you’ll get square eyes’? Well it turns out she was right. Kind of. Zoom won’t actually give you square eyes, but spending all day in front of a screen can seriously tire out your eyes. They spend all day straining into a lit-up screen, trying to focus. Even if you usually have a desk-job, your eyes are used to getting small breaks. Meetings, lunch time, chatting to colleagues—these are all natural points to step away from the screen. But now that all these activities are Zoomed, screen-time never ends.
What can I do to prevent Zoom fatigue?
Like any good thing, you can Zoom too much. And you can Zoom in the wrong way. Zoom fatigue will impact everyone differently. Here’s a few practical things you can try, to prevent Zoom from turning into Zzz-oom:
- Know when to say ‘no’. If there’s an optional video-call, it’s okay to say no.
- Turn your screen brightness down – or up. Fiddle with this throughout the day according to how your eyes are feeling.
- Wear glasses.
- Put Zoom into ‘speaker view’ when you’re trying to concentrate on who is speaking. That will help prevent wandering attention.
- Push your computer screen back a few inches and make sure you’re not craning your neck forward. Practice good posture.
- Mix it up. Sometimes choose to turn your video off. Try a phone call or email. Variety helps keep our minds on the ball.
- Set up your office space properly. Crack open the windows and welcome in the sunlight. Buy some greenery.
- Keep it short and sweet. Schedule a 30min call over a 60min call. Respect people’s time — and attention spans.
- Go outside. Take your Zoom meeting for a walk around the block.
- Minimise additional screen time. Swap Netflix for a book and family movie night for a card game.
Nap! A 20-30 min nap can reset your mind for the day and give your eyes a well deserved rest.
- Keep hydrated. Drinking enough water will help prevent headaches.
- Be honest with those around you. If you’re feeling all Zoomed out, speak up. That will help set people’s expectations.
- Fill up on good communication. Make the time to connect face-to-face with those in your households.
- Know yourself. You might be someone who needs to combat Zoom fatigue with more social activity, or you might be someone who needs to combat it with an early night alone. Learn what makes you tick.
- Experiment with doing things together over Zoom. Play games, bake, watch a movie – try Zoom activities which don’t rely on conversation alone.
A bit of gratitude goes a long way
All this Zooming is exhausting, but just think how lucky we are to be able to connect at all. COVID-19 restrictions have been difficult and Zoom has been there for us. We’ve been able to keep working, keep laughing, keep sharing, keep learning – thanks to Zoom. So, let’s be thankful for that. Keep the right perspective. Know your Zoom limits and practice healthy habits.
We’ve got tonnes of great Employee benefits to help you protect your mental health in this time. Let’s laugh through the glitches. Let’s take a nap when it all gets too much. And remember, one day we’ll be able to meet face-to-face again.