Among all the words and phrases that have become part of our collective language over the last few months – like quarantine, COVID-19, and social distancing – another new term is quickly joining the ranks: Zoom fatigue.
Whether you use Zoom or another video conferencing platform for work, for school, with family and friends, or, like most people, all of the above, the increased time spent in front of a camera is taking a toll.
“As we’ve started to use Zoom for any and all communication purposes with the outside world, lots of people, especially those in managerial positions with a plethora of back-to-back meetings, have started to experience Zoom fatigue,” says Jagoda Wieczorek, HR manager at ResumeLab.
Wieczorek defines Zoom fatigue as the emotional and physical strain that saps away our energy levels. “We experience it when our brain is simultaneously tasked with processing only a few available visual cues (facial expressions vs. full-body) from several people at once in a way we never have to do in person. Put another way, virtual meetings throw us in a stimulus-rich environment that muscles our brain to work twice as hard,” she says.
[ Need more help with running Zoom? Read also: Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. ]
10 tips to beat Zoom fatigue on teams
What can you do about Zoom fatigue, especially considering remote work and video conferencing are long-term prospects for many IT professionals? You could avoid scheduling back-to-back meetings and build in recharge time between meetings, as Wieczorek suggests. But leaders can also play an important role: If Zoom meetings are unavoidable, make them more meaningful, engaging, and even fun.
We asked professionals across a range of industries representing various team dynamics – from those that have been remote since well before social distancing began, to teams that have settled into their new reality – to share the rituals that make their video conferencing meetings more enjoyable. If fatigue is setting in with your team, consider these ideas for mixing things up.
1. Get everyone engaged at the beginning
“First, I would note that Zoom fatigue is real! Being ‘on camera’ can be draining, even if you are not the one talking. If you are in a group meeting, you can tell when people are watching you or if you need to be ‘on.’ With a Zoom meeting, you feel that way even when you are not the one speaking.”
“I have noticed that many teams start their meetings with a quick round robin of something really light. It might be as simple as everyone on the call volunteers a word that describes how they are feeling about things at the moment. It can be interesting, is usually very honest, and begins the call with a good level of interaction.”
“If you are on a call with others, such as clients or people from an office in a different city, always insist on doing brief introductions at he beginning. Think about it, if you were in the room together, you would introduce yourselves and chit-chat before the meeting. With that gone, you need to get everyone speaking early. Just hearing everyone’s voices can make the meeting more interactive and reduce the level of Zoom fatigue.” – John Arthur, author, Improve Your Virtual Meetings
2. Rotate meeting leaders
“I do my best to keep Zoom meetings engaging by rotating who’s the leader of each meeting. This allows different people to try out a leadership role, prepare for a meeting in a different way, and have more fun than they would if I was personally leading every meeting.”
“It’s also good to have a structure in place to hear from different people within the company, because introverted people are likely to not speak at all on Zoom meetings otherwise. I’ve found that by rotating the leader of each meeting, it’s allowed more introverted team members to really grow into a natural leadership role.” – Calloway Cook, president, Illuminate Labs
3. Have fun with themes
“I noticed myself starting to dread Zoom or wanting to keep my camera off. So, I doubled down. I want everyone to put the camera on so we all remember that we’re a team. We’re human. We’re not computers. So, I asked the team – what would they like to do to make this fun?”
“We came up with themed Zoom days. It’s usually on Mondays, because they’re the worst. We challenge everyone to dress up on theme only with what they’ve got available in their homes, and we all take turns picking the themes. We’ve done Disney Princesses (yes, the men too!), pets, toga party (lots of bed sheets for this one), and historical figures. My turn is coming up soon, and I’m excited to pick either ‘favorite movie’ or ‘80s hair bands’.” – Sean Nguyen, director, Internet Advisor
4. Use video primarily for team building
“Here’s how we reduce Zoom fatigue in my company: We use video calls only when really necessary. For example, I have a video call with a new employee when I am interviewing them, and during the onboarding process. After that, we have video calls only when needed.”
“When it comes to making Zoom calls fun, we conduct virtual team building activities on a shared video conference call. Examples include fun virtual games, like speed typing races, origami, etc. We also conduct virtual training sessions and workshops. Get a guest speaker to host a webinar on a skill that your team needs to learn or refresh. Better yet, get one of your team members to share their knowledge with their co-workers. Another idea: ask each of your team members to do a tour of their workspace or share an image of their desk. This can help bring the team closer as they share their ‘new normal’ with each other.” – Greg Heilers, co-founder, Jolly SEO
5. Highlight wins
“A meeting tradition I love is ending work weeks with a Friday ‘wins round-up.’ These are short, 15-30 minute team video calls where managers share goals and accomplishments achieved that very week alongside broader business positives, such as a glowing customer review or a story highlighting a particular employee’s good work.”
“To amp up the fun, consider scheduling these around lunchtime so employees can sit back, chow down, and relax while you read off the week’s wins. These Friday win roundups are a great way to end the workweek on a high, keeping morale up naturally while ensuring employees feel seen, even from afar, all without feeling forced.” – Ty Stewart, CEO & president, Simple Life Insure
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