Zoom Fatigue: What It Is and How Managers Can Mitigate It

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals
Remote worker in a zoom meeting

With workspaces transitioning into a digital environment, more and more jobs have shifted into a remote work setup. 70% of global professionals work remotely at least once a week, while 53% work remotely for at least half of the week. 

However, during these times where in-person meetups are limited, frequent video conferencing can cause anxiety and stress among workers. This feeling of burnout and exhaustion brought about by constant video conferencing is called Zoom fatigue. 

Since last year, the term Zoom fatigue has been searched on Google more often than ever. It means that a lot of people want to know how they can make video calls less exhausting. Find out more about Zoom fatigue, why it occurs, and how you can mitigate this issue in your workplace from the discussions below.

What is Zoom Fatigue?

Zoom fatigue refers to the weariness you feel after attending multiple mandatory video calls or Zoom meetings in a day. Over time, it can be hard for teams to process all the information presented during online meetings. Moreover, employees are often expected to be always “on” during calls, which can increase their performance anxiety and harm their mental health.

Put yourself in the shoes of your employees. You’re working for at least 40 hours a week in the same corner of the house for five days. You stare into the webcam with your microphone off, waiting to be called to give a five-minute update. Afterward, you sit for another 45 minutes until the call ends and then hop on another call. 

Aside from feeling drained and unproductive, there are other telltale signs to Zoom fatigue, like:

  • Muscle tension, insomnia, or body pains
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability with coworkers
  • Avoiding video meetings
  • Feeling behind with usual work tasks

The symptoms of Zoom fatigue are very similar to burnout or exhaustion that, if ignored, can lead to the breakdown of your team’s wellbeing. It can lead to employee burnout, decreased engagement, poor team dynamics, and negative attitudes. 

What Causes Zoom Fatigue?

While there isn’t any official diagnosis of Zoom fatigue, the phenomenon is real. Numerous psychologists attest that the condition has become more prevalent during the popularity of and need for remote work. Video conference platforms are a very helpful tool during these times, but why do they fatigue workers? Here are a few reasons. 

  1. Intense virtual eye-contact

In typical in-person meetings, employees have the space to look at the speaker, take notes, and even look elsewhere. However, when you’re on a Zoom call, you’ll be under the illusion that all eyes are on you—despite not being the speaker. 

Communication Professor Jeremy Bailenson says, “Social anxiety of public speaking is one of the biggest phobias that exists in our population. When you’re standing up there and everybody’s staring at you, that’s a stressful experience.” Having multiple faces staring at you can be stressful because you have to act accordingly for the meeting duration. 

  1. Your reflection is constantly staring back at you

Not only do your coworkers stare at you during video calls, but you also see your own reflection. It’s like a mirror follows you when you talk to people, make decisions, and give or receive feedback, which is unnatural. Seeing that small box with your face in it adds stress to the situation, as it makes you hyper-aware of your screen appearance.

  1. Significantly reduced non-verbal cues

In face-to-face interactions, people subconsciously rely on tone and body language, but employees work harder to send and receive non-verbal cues when meetings are done on video. When responding, you have to make sure your head is in-frame and nod exaggeratedly or do a thumbs-up. 

Additionally, when the rest of the team’s mics are on mute, the speaker can feel like they’re talking to the void, making the space less friendly and adding to their performance anxiety.

  1. Limited mobility

Moving while having a conversation with someone in-person or during an audio phone call is natural. A Stanford study found that creative output can increase by an average of 60% when people move. Employees are forced to generally stay in the same spot during video calls, which makes moving and cognitive development very limited. 

How Managers Can Prevent Zoom Fatigue

Despite Zoom fatigue being a common condition in the virtual workplace, there are ways for you and your team to combat it. Here are five tips on how managers can make video calls less exhausting for all people involved. 

  1. Know which “meetings” can be discussed through email

“This meeting could have been an email” is a funny commentary when most meetings were held in person. However, now that most people work remotely and are most likely suffering from Zoom fatigue, you can take this statement more seriously. The best way to minimize unnecessary video conferences is by setting a clear agenda for each meeting and filtering out those that are short or have a simple message. Remember that aside from video conferencing, other tools like messaging apps and productivity management tools allow you to coordinate with your colleagues without having to resort to video calls.

  1. Make FAQ documents and playbooks

Save yourself and your coworkers time by creating FAQ documents and playbooks. A good playbook should provide an overview of the department’s workflow and the procedures to the most common scenarios that employees will face. Not only do these documents make training easier at scale but they can also limit unnecessary virtual meetings, as team members now have a point of reference to abide by.

  1. Make meetings smaller, shorter, and well-structured

You can make your video call meetings shorter by preparing an agenda. By knowing the purpose of the meeting and creating an outline of the flow, you can avoid the call from dragging unnecessarily. 

Additionally, you can send an email to your team to let them know what the meeting is about and the points to be discussed. That way, if they have any concerns, questions, or suggestions, they’re prepared to bring them up, which will also help prevent the eerie Zoom silence. 

  1. Make video optional

Hopping on a video call doesn’t necessarily mean that attendees must be on video the whole time. One can turn off their camera and just listen. Or you can always talk to your team and suggest that they only open their cameras when it’s their turn to speak and then have them off afterward. 

Video calls can feel fairly intimate and invasive—especially if you don’t know each other well—so it’s best to make video optional to make sure everybody is comfortable.

  1. Institute mini-breaks during meetings

Face-to-face meetings typically come with mini-breaks in between, like short bathroom trips, switching meeting rooms, or grabbing coffee. Zoom calls are usually booked back-to-back during a remote work setup, leaving no time for mental or physical breaks. Allot short breaks during/between meetings to give everyone some time to stretch, have a quick snack, or refocus. 

Address Zoom Fatigue Head-on

Zoom fatigue isn’t exclusive to the platform Zoom. It’s an umbrella term for feeling exhausted after numerous video calls, whether it’s done on Skype, Google Meet, or any other platform. 

By acknowledging the existence of Zoom fatigue, you’ll be able to prevent the condition from negatively affecting your team’s performance. Knowing how to mitigate Zoom fatigue will keep your team engaged and motivated to do their tasks.

If you’re looking for ways to manage your team of remote workers, Manila Recruitment can help! As the leading recruitment agency in the Philippines, we provide expert assistance to businesses by making sure offshore workers understand your goals. Get in touch with us to know more about our top-notch services.

Ron Cullimore