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Zoom Fatigue: 6 Ways to Combat It (And 1 Bonus Tool)

Discover the reasons behind Zoom fatigue, symptoms, and effective tips to combat it. Explore the importance of improved written communication, asynchronous work, and a tool that minimizes the need for excessive video meetings.
Dominic Kent
Dominic Kent is a content marketer specializing in unified communications and contact centers.
Zoom fatigue

Zoom fatigue is the latest phrase we've added to our vocabulary since we started working from home.

Newsflash - it's not just introverts suffering from Zoom fatigue either!

Whether you're an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between, you were forced to work from home during the pandemic or had been working from home for years, Zoom fatigue has become a very real issue we're suffering from.

In this post, we'll cover why Zoom makes you feel tired, some tips for combatting Zoom fatigue, and introduce a tool that removes the need for so many meetings in the first place.

Jump to:

  1. Why does Zoom make you tired?
  2. Zoom fatigue symptoms
  3. How do you beat Zoom fatigue?
  4. Use this tool to combat Zoom fatigue

Why does Zoom make you tired?

You're working from home, there's no more meetings clogging up your day, and life is good.

Except you've discovered something you didn't know existed before.

Zoom fatigue.

First up, it's not just Zoom.

No matter which video conferencing platform you're using, if you're using it a lot, video calls may make you feel tired.

Here's why:

  1. If you're not used to being on video for meetings, you might be anxious about how you look or how you're acting.
  2. If you've scheduled back-to-back calls, you haven't moved for a few hours.
  3. Even though you work at a laptop most of the day, you're not used to engaging with other people via a screen.
  4. Being the focal point of everyone else is tiring. Even the most seasoned television presenters sweat it (literally) when they're live on screen for an extended period of time.
  5. The audio and video don't always match up. Even a millisecond delay in verbal responses affect our interpersonal perceptions.
  6. That's not a technical issue, either. But, technical difficulties like poor internet and incompatible equipment long out video meetings too.
Frozen participants and buffering cause Zoom fatigue

Zoom fatigue psychology

The Zoom fatigue psychology is an interesting one. It shows that Zoom fatigue doesn't apply to only introverts or extroverts.

One article on National Geographic reported that Jodi Eichler-Levine finished teaching a class over Zoom, and she immediately fell asleep in the guest bedroom doubling as her office:

“It's almost like you're emoting more because you're just a little box on a screen."

Psychology Today puts the feeling of Zoom fatigue down to the added facetime we've added to our day.

Before the pandemic, roughly 66% of our interaction with other people was face-to-face.

We now replace genuine face-to-face with face-to-screen. We're also doing a lot of it.

You only have to look at Zoom’s growth figures:

“Compared to face to face, texting, and using social media, energy use during a Zoom call is higher.”

That's the opinion, backed by research, of Jeffrey Hall, a professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas.

Can you relate?

Zoom fatigue symptoms

Much like self-diagnosing anything online, please don't rely on these Zoom fatigue symptoms to diagnose a genuine illness.

Zoom fatigue symptoms include:

  1. Feeling tired between calls
  2. Feeling more tired at the end of your working day than usual
  3. Daydreaming instead of paying attention in your meetings
  4. Overheating or feeling sweaty during calls
  5. Eye strain or irritation that wasn't pre-existing
  6. Regular headaches or migraines
  7. Constant feeling of exhaustion
  8. Anxiety of turning on your camera

If you're suffering from any of these, and you think it's down to Zoom fatigue, here's some tips to help.

How do you beat Zoom fatigue?

Use these Zoom fatigue tips to combat Zoom fatigue immediately:

1 - Stop multitasking

If you Google why multitasking is bad, you get about 7,520,000 results. 

multi tasking bad

The one most relevant to Zoom fatigue is that you (or any human) cannot focus 100% or more than one thing at a time.

So, the next time you join a video call but start typing away on another screen or messaging someone else on another platform, change your behavior.

If you dedicate all of your attention to the video call, it's easier to follow along and you won't be caught off guard.

Your brain doesn't need to divide your attention span between sources of media, and you won't tire yourself out.

When you focus on one activity at a time, you stand a better chance of that one thing being successful.

In his book, The One Thing, Gary Keller explains how focussing on a single thing per day, per hour, per sprint, or per call can lead to extraordinary results.

And if you find yourself paying no attention to the meeting and making your one thing the other activity, you probably don't need to join the meeting at all!

2 - Don't schedule back-to-back calls

Introverts may hate this idea and extroverts possibly love the idea of back to back calls.

Not only will this give you a video break but it means you can take a restroom break, snack break, or any kind of break you might do in the real world.

Clare McCabe, a freelance copywriter, suggests planning rest time in between calls. Or even going as far as limiting the number of Zoom calls you have per day:

"I only book one work Zoom a day, if I can. I plan in rest time afterwards, especially for new clients."

We've all been in the situation where we just need to get up.

Learn from these experiences and book a five, 10, or 30-minute slot for offline work or taking a break.

3 - Agree an end time (and stick to it)

As with any meeting in the real world, our Zoom meetings are overrunning.

Is that because we're scared of leaving a meeting?

The way around this is to universally agree an end time.

Anna Gunning, a content marketing strategist, emphasizes the importance of everyone being on the same page in terms of end time.

One example Anna provides is a client that has lots of stand-ups. But, if a call is scheduled for 30 mins, then it’s 30 minutes:

"If it starts to go over, pop in the chat that you need to leave with no offense taken."

Sticking to your agreed end time can be a challenge in itself.

If you find yourself struggling with ending meetings on time, try using a shared agenda.

Use a shared agenda to avoid meetings overrunning and avoid Zoom fatigue

You can agree on an agenda before your meeting via Slack, Teams, or even email.

4 - Turn off your camera when you don't need it

Think about it.

If you're watching a presentation, does the presenter need to see you?

If you're making notes from various speakers, do other attendees need to see you?

Before you join any meeting, ask yourself "Do people need to see me in this meeting?"

If the answer is no, join with audio-only.

How to join Zoom without video

Set your default joining experience to audio-only in the Video tab in your Zoom settings.

Scroll halfway down the options and tick Turn off my video when joining a video meeting.

For all future meetings, you'll join as an audio-only meeting participant by default.

If you wish to turn your video on, click the Start video button on the left-hand side of the bottom bar.

Start video in a Zoom meeting

5 - Improve your written communications

One major way to reduce Zoom fatigue is to reduce the number of video meetings you have.

A simple concept but one we struggle to achieve.

Often, we take the easy route out. We choose the option that is most beneficial to us at the moment.

If instead, we thought long-term about the action we are taking, we might spend another 30 seconds on that email.

Or bullet out what we mean instead of asking an open-ended question.

By making things clear in writing, a ton (not the official data) of meetings could be saved.

Meeting could have been an email

Fewer meetings = less Zoom fatigue.

So, next time you send a message asking if someone if free they're for a Zoom meeting, replace that message with what you intend to ask them in the meeting?

The reply could answer the question there and then.

Or your potential meeting attendee might ask for you to expand on your point.

Or say they'll need some time to do some research or gather documentation.

Worst case scenario? You still have a meeting but you've clarified the need for one.

6 - Work asynchronously

When your written communication has improved, you can start to work asynchronously more often.

What does asynchronous work mean?

Asynchronous means not simultaneous or concurrent in time. The opposite of synchronous.

When applied to work, we find that synchronous work is work completed together in real-time.

For example, a one-to-one Zoom call is synchronous work. Or screen sharing and collaborating on a whiteboard.

These are work activities that need each party in real-time.

Asynchronous work is the opposite of this. Work that can be carried out without calling people together in the moment.

Examples of asynchronous work include emails, chat messages, and recorded videos.

GitLab publicly lists all its asynchronous activities:

Asynchronous communication to combat Zoom fatigue

Without great written communication skills, GitLab would struggle to collaborate on backlog tickets and capacity planning.

By dedicating time to construct informative messages and instructional requests, GitLab (and you) can reduce reliance on synchronous work.

Use this tool to combat Zoom fatigue

When you've improved your written communication and are working asynchronously, you'll likely be using platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

You might even be using Zoom Team Chat - the chat option that comes free with Zoom's video conferencing tool.

When you're chatting to someone on the same platform, your written communications really shine through. You may never need a meeting again!

But, what happens when you need to chat with a colleague who uses an app different from you?

In the old days, where we accepted Zoom fatigue, we'd "jump on a quick call" and fall into our old habits.

In the new age, where we're thinking about our actions, we can chat across platform with a single app.

If you want to stay in Zoom Team Chat and connect to contacts on Microsoft Teams or Slack, learn more at m.io.

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