March 11, 2021·9 min read

We’re all using video calls more and more at work and in our personal lives—and it’s exhausting. Zoom fatigue is real. Here’s what you can do about it.

Video calls. They’re not just a fact of remote work, but a veritable lifeline. Except when they’re not. People (especially office workers) are increasingly experiencing burnout and exhaustion from constant video conferencing, a phenomenon that’s been dubbed “Zoom fatigue.”

And it’s not just at work. In the middle of a pandemic—a time of lockdowns and quarantine and physical distancing—video calls aren’t just how people do business. They’re how they connect with friends; participate in fitness classes; attend major life events like weddings, graduations, and even funerals; enjoy social activities; learn remotely; and even join in worship.

But, when we experience everything through a screen—one that always seems to be watching us back—it’s bound to wear us out.

  1. Contents
  2. 1.What is Zoom Fatigue?
  3. 1.1It’s Not Just Zoom
  4. 1.2Our Brains Have to Work Harder
  5. 1.3We’re Always ‘On’
  6. 1.4We’re Easily Distracted
  7. 1.5Our Tech Often Fails Us
  8. 2.Zoom Fatigue Solutions That Actually Work: Tips for Having Fewer Video Calls
  9. 2.1 Establish ‘No Meeting’ Time Blocks
  10. 2.2 Designate a Meeting-Free Day OR Establish One Day a Week for All Meetings
  11. 2.3 Say ‘No’ to Video Calls That Aren’t Valuable
  12. 2.4 Reduce Calls By Using Text-Based Communications
  13. 2.5 Replace Calls with Recorded Asynchronous Video
  14. 3.Zoom Fatigue Solutions That Actually Work: Tips for Making Unavoidable Video Calls More Bearable
  15. 3.1 Always Have an Agenda
  16. 3.2 Schedule Breaks
  17. 3.3 Make Meetings Shorter (Yes, All of Them)
  18. 3.4 Hide ‘Self-View’
  19. 3.5 Turn Off Your Camera Entirely
  20. 3.6 Avoid Multitasking
  21. 3.7 Schedule Screen-Free Time
Watch and Learn

Want to watch instead of reading? We made a video version of this blog with all the tips for fighting zoom fatigue.

In just four minutes, Vidyard’s Social Media Manager Charlie Rogers explains some of the highlights from this blog.

What is Zoom Fatigue?

Named for one of the most ubiquitous video calling platforms, Zoom fatigue is a term for the exhaustion caused by constant video calls. It’s a relatively new phenomenon, birthed amid a pandemic.

While it hasn’t exactly made it to the status of official diagnosis, many psychologists say the condition is becoming increasingly prevalent in the era of remote work (especially during the time of lockdowns, quarantine, and social distancing). Basically, yes: Zoom fatigue is real.

It’s Not Just Zoom

Though it’s known as “Zoom fatigue,” it can just as easily take place on any video conferencing platform, including Google Hangouts and Meet, Skype, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, FaceTime, BlueJeans, Slack, Houseparty, and so on.

But what is it about video calls that make us all feel so damn tired? Unsurprisingly, it’s a combination of factors, most of which boil down to the fact that video calls require more mental processing than face-to-face interactions.

Our Brains Have to Work Harder

For one, it makes us work harder to process many of the non-verbal cues we rely on in-person, such as tone and body language. The silence that ensues when meeting participants mute their mics to minimize distracting noises can make speakers feel like they’re talking into the void. The slight delay makes people seem less friendly and leads to negative perceptions.

We’re Always ‘On’

And then there’s self-view. In real-life meetings, we don’t have to see ourselves. But on video calls, our own face stares back at us alongside those of our colleagues. Not only does this make us hyper-aware of ourselves, our appearance, and the space behind us that appears on camera, it also leads to performative feelings. Because you’re always on camera, you have the feeling that you’re always “on” and have to act accordingly. During in-person meetings, we don’t feel others’ eyes on us at all times. But in the Hollywood Squares-style gallery view (so dubbed for its resemblance to the old TV game show), we can’t escape it.

We’re Easily Distracted

Plus, there’s the temptation to check email or Slack or keep working on something else during a meeting. We tell ourselves we can do both things, but the fact is, the call format already requires too much of our attention to allow for effective multitasking.

Our Tech Often Fails Us

And, that’s not even getting into the technical errors and disruptions that make engaging even more difficult: Spotty wifi, frozen screens, screen sharing difficulties, software crashes, device lags, and more compound the issue.

The good news is: There is a solution. Lots of them, in fact. To simplify things, I’ve split them into two groups: Solutions for eliminating or cutting down on video calls and solutions for making the unavoidable ones more bearable.

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