As the CEO of Boston Digital, I have spent many years in back to back to back meetings. However, like many of you I feel these meetings have become more draining after they’ve gone digital. Why is it that Zoom meetings can leave us feeling more exhausted than your typical face to face chat? And what steps can you take to combat what experts are calling “Zoom fatigue”?
Why are Zoom meetings so exhausting?
For many reasons Zoom meetings can leave us feeling more fatigued than normal. A big part of this is that they act as both a mirror and a window – causing us to be overly aware that we are on video. Since you can see yourself presenting an agenda or reacting to a conversation, you are inherently more self-conscious. Today’s meetings require a certain degree of multi-tasking and being distracted by your own appearance adds an additional thing to split your focus.
Over video it is also harder to understand tone or body language, and our brains are working overtime to fill in these gaps. The larger a meeting is the harder processing communication can be. When you're set up in gallery mode, viewing everyone in the meeting as an identical square, absorbing body language and non-verbal cues becomes nearly impossible. It can be helpful to use speaker view, which switches based on who is talking, but this still doesn’t match up with how we process information in person.
The natural rhythms of human communication do not flow as well on video either. Knowing when to jump into a conversation can be tricky in person– you need to be polite, but you also need to get your point across. The delays and overall awkwardness of video chat make this all the more difficult.
Video calls are tricky when they go right – but when the inevitable technical difficulties show up things can get even more stressful. Studies have shown that technical difficulties in a meeting can affect our view of the presenter: even delays of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the responder as less friendly or focused. For large meetings it helps to test your system beforehand, however even a dry run can’t stop unforeseen technical troubles, that annoy teams and stress presenters.
On top of all of this many people are also “Zooming” with friends and family after work. Making even your recreational time exhausting. How do we balance our desire to connect with others with keeping our energy levels high? Here are a few quick tips:
To Zoom or not to Zoom?
Is it always necessary to have your camera on in a meeting? For town halls or more formal meetings having a camera on can help create a sense of community, but some meetings may work best without it. In general, it’s best to respect each individual’s preferences. For every employee excited to show off their new home office set up, there is someone adjusting to working in a cramped apartment or in a living room that is also a classroom.
It also helps to build in breaks in between your Zoom meetings. What felt like a request you made to a colleague four days ago, may have actually been four meetings ago. And the reason they haven’t gotten back to you? They were in those four meetings too! If possible, build in time for yourself to write down key action items and send follow up messages. It is crucial that Zoom meetings are productive, especially since we know they may be an energy zap.
It is also important to ask yourself if the topic at hand necessarily needs a meeting. Many employees are feeling more productive working from home because of reduced commutes, fewer distractions from co-workers, and less meetings. Since we know Zoom meetings can be particularly draining, try and save them for when they can add the most value.
Take some time off
While Zoom meetings may be a part of our lives now, and we may not be able to completely rid ourselves of Zoom fatigue - it is important to make sure you are looking out for your own mental health and wellbeing. At Boston Digital I encourage all employees to take mental health days. When we switched to remote work our teams went into overdrive on productivity. As a CEO you love to see your team working hard, however eventually this can lead to burnout and exhaustion. Even before the pandemic, the #1 challenge of remote workers was that they struggled to unplug. In this world where the boundaries between work and home are blurred it is more important than ever to take time to unplug and recharge.