Tips for Overcoming “Zoom Fatigue” & Coping with Online Meetings

June 8, 2020

There have been lots of articles recently about the exhaustion many of us are experiencing from having to be in back to back online meetings and why using video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Meet can be extremely tiring. They don’t have to be, though. Here are some ways to manage that fatigue and get the most out of your online meetings, based on our experience as a fully remote company.  

Why Video Calls are More Tiring Than Face to Face Meetings

“When you’re on a video conference, you know everybody’s looking at you; you are on stage, so there comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform. Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful [than face to face].”
                                                                                                                                   – Marissa Shuffler, Associate Professor, Clemson University

As a remote company, PathWise has relied on videoconferencing and other collaborative remote work tools to run meetings with clients, partners, and employees and to stay connected for many years. It allows us to facilitate discovery sessions where we explore clients’ needs and work with clients all over the world, no matter where we or they are located. However, the current COVID-19 pandemic is forcing a lot of people to use many of these tools for the first time, which can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially as video calls can require a lot of multitasking. 

 

Image of two people having a Zoom conference call

Ways to Reduce Video Call Fatigue 

We’ve put together some clear ways that we find help us reduce workplace videoconferencing fatigue. 

Avoid scheduling back-to-back meetings 
If you’re using a scheduling tool like Calendly, try to set your availability so that people aren’t able to book back-to-back meetings with you. Give yourself a buffer to stretch, take a “bio break” (i.e., use the washroom), grab a coffee, and get your head into the next meeting, so you don’t feel like you’re rushing from one thing to the next. 

Have a clear agenda for your meetings
Setting and sticking to an agenda for any meeting is a best practice for ensuring efficient, organized meetings that don’t waste your time. End the meeting on time, and make action items and next steps easy to follow. 

Implement video conference best practices
It can be hard to know how background noise like a loud laptop fan or neighbours who insist on mowing their lawn just as your meeting starts will interfere, if our movements will be distracting, or what our sound will be like for the rest of the group in a meeting. But there are some things you can do to minimize these potential problems – and it starts with implementing clear protocols around your remote video conferences.

You can ask your teams and clients to

  • Try to find a place where they can close a door and have a neutral background behind them (to reduce distractions)
  • Test their settings and sound before a meeting
  • Mute after joining the meeting and unmute only when talking
  • Switch off video if the connection isn’t great, as this can help with bandwidth
  • Use headphones and a mic, rather than device speakers
  • Use chat functions or a “raise your hand” function for asking questions 
  • Nominate a facilitator who can monitor questions
  • Record the meeting for those who can’t make it/for reviewing afterwards in case anyone misses something due to technical issues 

Deciding whether or not to use video in every meeting can also be a part of this. We discuss this further below. 

Consider whether ‘video on’ is always necessary
It’s not just the time delays, technical difficulties, slow internet speed, video freezing, ‘I can hear you, can you hear me?’… According to Gianpiero Petriglieri, Associate Professor at Insead, being on a video call means we also have to focus harder on body language, tone, and other cues that in face-to-face conversations are easier to interpret.  

A way to combat this is to decide when having your video on is necessary. You may decide that it is for client meetings but not for staff meetings. We leave it optional for our team for staff meetings, but sometimes it can feel isolating not being able to see your team members, especially when working remotely.  Like with most things, it’s a balance. 

One way to minimize feelings of scrutiny and to minimize “Zoom fatigue” is to turn off your self-view; others can see you but you can’t see yourself. This can help you stop feeling like you have to monitor yourself. But don’t forget that people can still see you (you don’t want to become an Internet sensation for taking your laptop to the bathroom!)

Avoid meetings for meeting’s sake
Sometimes it’s as simple as… don’t have a meeting! Ask yourself, is there a better way to handle what needs to be done? Do you need to have a meeting with the whole group? Does it have to be in real time? Can this be a discussion via a team chat app, via email, or a quick phone call rather than a video chat? Sometimes we call meetings because we feel it’ll help productivity, but meetings can often waste more time than if the team were left to work on what needs to be done. 

Remember that while tools are fantastic, they are only tools; you need to have the proper processes and practices in place in order to use the tools in the best way possible for your specific needs.