Video chats are a convenient way to connect with friends, family, and colleagues when you can’t see them in person. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many of us were housebound for extended periods of time, video chatting seemed to become a way of life, used with more frequency than ever before. In fact, Zoom users jumped from about 10 million users in December of 2019 to more than 300 million users just five months later.1
Though convenient, there’s a downside to being able to connect with others via your computer or phone screen. It’s called “Zoom fatigue.” And though it has the name of one particular video platform in its name, the tiredness one feels after using video chat applies to similar platforms like Skype and FaceTime too. Find out the symptoms of Zoom fatigue and what you can do to reduce that feeling of exhaustion that often comes after you close your chat window.
Q: What is “Zoom Fatigue”?
ANSWER: Sometimes called virtual fatigue, Zoom fatigue refers to the exhaustion one feels after a video call or conference. Though it’s not an official medical diagnosis, Krystal Jagoo, MSW, RSW, tells Healthline that it feels similar to what we tend to think of as “exhaustion or burnout.”2
Zoom fatigue symptoms include:
- Feeling drained or tense after a video chat
- Difficulty concentrating during chats
- A tendency to avoid, cancel, or reschedule
- Sore eyes
- Wanting time alone after after a video chat
- Anxiety about turning on your camera
Why video chats fatigue us.
According to researchers at Stanford, there are four primary reasons why Zoom fatigue happens:3
- Close-up eye contact causes stress: Close-up eye contact causes a hyper-aroused state that increases stress. Faces also appear larger than in real life, which signals to our brain that we are in an intense situation.
- Our reflections disturb us: Seeing ourselves on screen makes us more critical of our appearance as well as the appearance of our homes/work space. We become too aware of what we look like when listening, talking, smiling, and beyond and we are expected to present a professional appearance while working in the comfort of our homes.
- We don’t move as much: Movement is said to help us perform better cognitively, which is why many people like to walk around if they’re on a phone call. Video chats reduce our usual mobility, keeping us in a rigid state that may contribute to our fatigue.
- The cognitive load is higher: In-person meetings allow us to pick up on non-verbal communication that helps the conversation flow. In video chat, our brain has to work harder to decode tone, read gestures, and mentally process verbal communication.
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Zoom Fatigue solutions and how to cope.
If you feel like video chats are dominating your day, you can find ways to reduce the toll they take by making a few small tweaks. Try these potential solutions to ease the fatigue:
- Skip unnecessary meetings: You may not be able to disconnect completely, but there’s no harm in asking your manager or employer if there are meetings you can pass on or watch a recording of later. And if you can’t pass, commit to taking breaks when possible, even if it’s just to turn off the video and stretch out to clear your mind (and ease bodily tension).
- Take breaks between meetings: What’s more tiring than a video chat? Back-to-back video chats. Try spacing out your calls to give yourself some breathing room between meetings or limiting yourself to one meeting a day if possible.
- Turn off video: If you can get away with it, turn off video and listen in. This takes the pressure off of appearing presentable, keeping eye contact, and more.
- Stick to schedules: Video chats become more stressful when there’s no end in sight. Make sure that there’s a clear end time to scheduled calls and stick with it to make each call as efficient as possible.
If you still find that Zoom fatigue is bringing you down or increasing your anxiety levels, finding ways to support a healthy lifestyle during downtime is crucial. Be sure to balance out sedentary hours with active pursuits when you can, such as keeping a regular exercise routine or taking a midday walk. Following a healthy diet and getting enough sleep will also help keep you energized and increase your mental abilities. Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques are other great methods of reducing stress, such as meditating, practicing yoga, or listening to relaxing music. And if you spend the bulk of your day making video calls, pay attention to how much screen time you get off the clock. Giving your eyes and your brain a break from social media, gaming, and TV will help keep your circadian rhythm intact and your stress levels down.
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References: 1https://www.businessofapps.com/data/zoom-statistics/, 2https://www.healthline.com/health/zoom-fatigue, 3https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/