Zoom-fatigue is a real thing!

24 May

If you’re feeling exceptionally tired after chatting with friends or colleagues – or both! – there is evidence that you may be experiencing ‘Zoom-fatigue’.

Since the world-wide lockdown with severe restrictions on our movement we have been engaging with others on an unprecedented level via video or voice communication platforms. I’m so grateful to have Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp and so on to connect with others. But I’ve realized that there is a dark side to this wonderful technology.

Over and above the possible data breaches, which is a serious enough consideration, there is the matter of personal fatigue.

Causes of screen (Zoom) fatigue

For those who spend a lot of time in front of a PC for a living, it is common knowledge that our eyes and bodies take enormous strain. Eye-strain, stiff neck, back-ache are some of the symptoms of too much time in front of a screen.

Today we are spending a lot more time in virtual meetings. In normal face-to-face meetings we subconsciously and easily read non-verbal cues taking in the surrounding environment at the same time. In the case of virtual meetings, we spend a lot more energy interpreting the same cues. Spending many more hours than normal in these virtual meetings adds to the body’s strain.

Technical hitches such as poor wifi or software crashes add to the strain and frustration of communication.

And, there is the issue of staring and scrolling through all the other devices such as our cell phones, IPads and TV sets in addition to our laptops or PCs. Our waking lives are deeply entwined with our communication devices!

The massive increase in time engaging with various devices, screens and monitors has a direct impact on our well-being one way or another. Mental and emotional exhaustion is a signal that we need to pay attention to. Deep exhaustion from excessive screen time can result in poor sleep habits, digestive disturbances, and irritability. Since it is our natural tendency to try and find some balance, we may begin to look to external mechanisms such as drinking or smoking (if you can access these during these strange times!) to try and soothe or regulate a nervous system that is out of balance.

Some solutions

The Harvard Business Review (//hbr.org/2020/04/how-to-combat-zoom-fatigue) suggests that in order to prevent distractions and conserve the energy we need for the call we’re on, we close any open tabs or programs. This will also help us stay fully present on our call.

Personally, I ensure that I have at least 30 minutes to an hour between online consultations. To be fully present and engaged with my clients for the average hourly consult, I need to carefully manage my energy levels. During the breaks between consults I will get up and walk around the garden, do some deep-breathing, or have a cup of tea. It’s vitally important to re-energize myself in preparation for any consultation but particularly for online work.

An obvious suggestion is to simply limit the amount of virtual meetings you have during the day. Where possible, schedule a voice call, or send an email. Managing your energy resources is also a question of boundary keeping. Paying attention to your physical and mental needs is as important as servicing the needs of your clients.

Finally

We are all navigating a vastly different world in a sea of constant change. Our challenge is to find a balance between many conflicting demands for change both on a personal and a collective level. Be kind to yourself as you learn to adapt and reach out for help when you need it.

If you know me or have read some of my other posts, you’ll know music is an integral part of my life and, I believe, a source of true healing for humanity. Here is an iconic Bob Dylan song first released in 1964 where the words seem as pertinent today as it was then: