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Zoom Fatigue: The Struggle is Real

Zoomache: zoom·ache | \zoohmm-āk weariness, fatigue, stress, and/or exhaustion from never-ending Zoom calls with family, friends, business colleagues causing a state of exhaustion or attitude of indifference or apathy brought on by overexposure to videoconferencing.

This is the term I’ve been searching for the last few weeks to describe how I’ve been feeling about the nonstop video chats.  Thankfully, Dennis Pitocco, Editor-in-Chief enlightened me in his latest piece published on BizCatalyst 360°, Zoom and Gloom: Got a Zoomache?

Our social roles are not just designated by the people we’re with, but also where we interact with those people.

When social distancing and self-isolation first became a thing, so did video conferencing.  And while many of us have been using zoom and skype for a long time now, suddenly we aren’t just using them for business. We’re also catching up with family, playing games, watching movies and having dinner with friends – all in the same space or zoom room.  It would be like taking classes, having girls night out and visiting with your grandma all at your office.  Our social roles are not just designated by the people we’re with, but also where we interact with those people.  Currently, the only space we have for any kind of interaction is the block that holds our heads on a computer screen.

Being on a video call requires more neural energy than a face-to-face chat. We need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like micro-expressions, vocal tone and pitch, and body language.

Also, the way the video images are digitally encoded, altered, adjusted and patched together happens below our conscious awareness, and the brain has to work hard to fill in all of the gaps and stitch everything together.

Another challenge is silence. In face-to-face conversations, a one-second delay isn’t a big deal.  But when it happens on a video call, it makes us nervous and we perceive others more negatively.  One 2014 study by German academics showed that delays on phone or conferencing systems shaped our views of people negatively: even delays of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the responder as less friendly or not paying attention.

3 Ways to Alleviate Zoom Fatigue

  1. Limit video calls to those that are necessary. Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. Be judicious when deciding which conversations require video and which can be done via telephone or email.  Turning the camera off should also be optional – especially in larger meetings when not everyone can be seen at once.
  2. In conversations with more than a few people, experiment with having your screen off to the side. This may help you maintain focus for longer periods of time as it simulates being in a room with others around you rather than all directly in front of you.
  3. Building transition periods in between video meetings. Avoid jumping from one video call to another without at least a 15-30 minute transition period. During this video break, turn off the camera or, better yet, step away from the computer completely.  Take a brief walk outside if possible for a “digital reset.”

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Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.
Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.https://www.melissahughes.rocks/
Dr. Melissa Hughes is a neuroscience geek, keynote speaker, and author. Her latest book, Happier Hour with Einstein: Another Round explores fascinating research about how the brain works and how to make it work better for greater happiness, well-being, and success. Having worked with learners from the classroom to the boardroom, she incorporates brain-based research, humor, and practical strategies to illuminate the powerful forces that influence how we think, learn, communicate and collaborate. Through a practical application of neuroscience in our everyday lives, Melissa shares productive ways to harness the skills, innovation and creativity within each of us in order to contribute the intellectual capital that empowers organizations to succeed with social, financial and cultural health.

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6 CONVERSATIONS

  1. So true! I have been on Zoom forever and Skype before that but I have never been this tired being in front of the camera for business and social. You want to be there to stay connected but then it feels too much at a certain point. I hope we get to F2F soon and the real hugs and touching! Thank you for the insight.

  2. Melissa — As I have been semi-retired for about 5 years – read as out of the physical space of an office – so I’m pretty comfortable with the medium except for when there’s a very large group. Then my introverted minions want to start ducking for cover, yelling “Just tell them you have to make dinner or get the laundry from the dryer!”

    That said, it does help for me to now know more of the people on the large #humanfirst calls.

    I also have a standing desk, which I try to use for all coaching calls and interviews. It keeps me on my toes (Sorry…) and serves to break things up.

    Even though we’re ostensibly “connecting,” the large group at least for me doesn’t provide the comfort of “I can look at you and you can look at me” kind of connection. I don’t always know where to focus – hence your point about trust. So I’m intrigued by #2 in your article. Maybe we can set up a zoom call and you can give me more details!

    Loved the video.

  3. Melissa- So glad to read your insights. I have been so bogged down physically from sitting, standing and just existing constantly at my desk for much longer hours than just 8-5 that my body is beginning to really be weary. I think the other factor that I’m having is compulsive working. I’m feeling guilty if I’m not getting to everything everyday. The hours blend and I can completely loose track of the day. And 10-15 hours at a desk, ergonomic, adjustable or not, is too long! Thank you for the validation and the suggestions! You always challenge me!

    • So glad this science explains some of what you’re feeling, Catherine. I know it always helps me when I experience something that I can blame/attribute to science. “See… it’s not my fault I can’t do another Zoom meeting!”
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’m humbled that I can bring such value.

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