• Joel Rosenberg, Chief Mental Health Officer

Zoom fatigue - What is it and how can we prevent it?

Drained. Sleepy. Unmotivated. Isn’t working from home supposed to be relaxing? At the end of a regular workday, you feel exhausted without any explanation. Believe it or not, there are thousands of others experiencing this strain: zoom fatigue (and it’s very real). The term has been plastered all over social media, but what really is it? 

Think about a time when you were able to tell someone did or didn’t like you based on the way they held themselves. When talking to someone in real life, the brain is able to subconsciously pick up on visual cues such as vocal pauses in the rhythm of a conversation, nods signifying agreement, eyebrow raises in confusion, and more. 

In an interview with the Inquirer, Eric Zillmer, the Carl R. Pacifico Professor of neuropsychology at Drexel University and the school’s athletics director stated that “An amazing amount of neuronal mass is dedicated to reading people’s faces, sensing emotions, social cues, the ambiance, intuition”.

However, through video chatting you can’t pick up on those nonverbal cues as easily due to the small, pixelated screen. The brain struggles to find this missing information, causing it to work harder than it usually does. 

A 2014 study by German academics showed that even delays of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the others as less friendly or focused. Proving the absence of these cues in video conferencing can negatively impact our perception of others. 

But the heightened awareness of yourself on a video call can also be a contributing factor to zoom fatigue. Studies show that we typically concentrate on ourselves in video calls. This feeling that we are always being watched can become tiring. Many describe it as “performing” or being “on”, which after long periods of time can become draining.  

Zoom fatigue is clearly detrimental, but what can we do to combat it? -

Here are 4 ways to help prevent Zoom fatigue

1) Explore other alternatives to video calls.

We often forget that there are other communication options available to us. Switching to a simple phone call can put your eyes at ease and be refreshing in a day full of Zoom calls, and quite frankly your co-workers may also feel relieved.

Ask your employer to alternate between the two to lessen the imposed fatigue. A simple email could also be able to replace a zoom call. Oftentimes at the end of a call, we realize a simple message may have been just as effective. Ultimately, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the extensive video calls, ask your boss to be flexible with your channels of communication. 

2) Create a schedule.

To ensure that your workday isn’t filled with back to back video conferences, layout an itinerary with scheduled breaks in between your meetings. It is essential to maintain a balance, especially when working from home. Your breaks can be as simple as doing a 5-minute stretch, a few minutes of meditation, or walking around your house. Not only will it boost your energy, but getting up and moving around can also benefit your physical health, improve your overall mood, and increase your productivity!

3) Stray away from multitasking.


Many of us are guilty of “tab-surfing” during a video conference but it can actually tire out your brain very quickly and contribute to zoom fatigue. Multitasking overwhelms your brain and although you may think it increases productivity, it can actually reduce it by a whopping 40% [Source]. Try focussing on the present and giving your undivided attention to the task at hand. This also includes not checking your phone for emails or responding to slack messages; they can wait.  

4) Use Microsoft’s together mode.


Microsoft is set to launch a new meeting view in August called “Together mode”, that uses AI segmentation technology to place members in a digitally shared background. The setting view puts attendees in chairs, similar to an auditorium, which imitates the feeling of being in the same room. It also makes it easier to pick up on social cues and makes conversation smoother. Microsoft conducted brain scans and found that “Together mode” had the potential to reduce the effects of zoom fatigue as the brain exerted less force in together mode than when in a regular grid view. While Microsoft’s August launch will primarily feature an auditorium setting, they are planning to launch other variations in the near future.

Zoom fatigue can be difficult to manage but it is not an unsolvable issue. Being mindful and being kind to yourself during these times can make a big difference in your energy levels and your mental health. 

To find out more about mindfulness and other tips to improve your mental health download our app, Resili!

Photo by Mohammad Hassan on Pixabay

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