If you’re one of the many folks who’s been working from home for the past year or so, you know how exhausting it can be. Zoom fatigue is real. While most of us are grateful to be able to continue doing our jobs under these challenging circumstances, virtual interactions take a toll – staying focused, engaged, and productive is tough when face-to-face means face-to-screen.
6 ways to combat Zoom fatigue
To ease burnout and keep yourself and your team members sharp and alert, consider these tips.
1. Keep meetings small
Adding people to virtual meetings may be as simple as entering an email address – but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Consider a typical in-person discussion involving 40 people: If it wouldn’t work in a conference room, why would it work online?
Unless you’re doing a broadcast, staff meeting, or webinar where the goal is to communicate to the entire organization, keep attendance lists short. If you need to meet with more than ten people, consider using breakout groups to make interactions more manageable.
2. Keep meetings short
Things that your brain does effortlessly in person – knowing who’s speaking, reading faces, feeding on shared energy – are much more difficult in a virtual environment, where we must perform a surprising amount of mental work to offset the lack of physical presence. This effort can drain our batteries quickly.
So make your virtual meetings sprints, not marathons. If you need to hold a meeting that will take more than an hour or so, build in breaks to avoid wearing people out.
3. Stick to one platform
Zoom, Google Meetings, Skype, Teams, RingCentral…the list of available tools is long.
The advantage: You can pick the tool that best fits your team. But what if the choice is all of them?
Subtle differences in how the tools work can be taxing mentally, detracting from our ability to focus. We’ve all had the experience of fumbling to find the right share window, or being on the other end: “Sam, what do you think? Sam? Did we lose Sam? Well, moving on…” “Wait! This is Sam, I couldn’t find the mute button!”
These things may seem like small annoyances, but they add up quickly. Don’t add tool-switching to the equation.
4. Take a breath
Actively try to insert pauses, and remind others to do so too. Speak more slowly and solicit questions. If you are leading the meeting, try to keep the energy high enough to be engaging but calm enough so that people aren’t talking over each other.
Enabling meeting attendees to get a word in is Conference Call Etiquette 101 – but it’s more important than ever now.
5. Lights, camera…on or off?
This one is a judgment call. On the one hand, having your camera on lets people detect non-verbal cues, which can reduce fatigue on both sides. On the other hand, you might not always want to invite your colleagues into your – and your family’s – personal space. And your colleagues likely feel the same way.
On top of that, videoconferencing has an environmental impact: A recent Purdue University study estimates that an hour of videoconferencing or streaming emits between 150 and 1000 grams of carbon dioxide, uses up to 12 liters of water, and consumes the equivalent of an area of land about the size of an iPad mini. Turns out the camera adds more than just that proverbial 20 pounds.
Carefully consider a camera policy for your team and make it a deliberate choice that empowers attendees while respecting their boundaries.
And on that note…
6. Lighten up!
Okay, so your dog barks at spiders, and your kid feels compelled to provide continuous updates on what the cat is doing. Or maybe you can’t hear what the boss just said because someone else in the meeting is dealing with their own version of dog/spider/kid/cat.
Take a breath. It’s going to be okay.
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons to take away from the virtual workplace is that work exists inside the context of life, and it always has. This new way of life and work is disruptive for everyone, so you don’t have to apologize for every mishap. If someone else’s background noise becomes too much, kindly and respectfully suggest that they go on mute. Give yourself – and your colleagues – a break.
It’s work, it’s life, it’s fine. Relax, and have a good meeting!
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]