5 minute read
Companies have become more reliant on video conferencing as they operate remotely, but this is resulting in a phenomenon known as “Zoom fatigue,” where employees are feeling burned out due to the blurring of work-life boundaries and other issues caused by video calls.
Employers can combat Zoom fatigue by using various methods of communication, making the video function optional, scheduling breaks between video meetings, and checking in with employees via the phone.
Communication is an integral part of our everyday lives, and good communication is essential for success in the workplace.
With the recent shift toward remote work during the COVID-19 crisis, many companies have had to resort to innovative solutions for keeping their employees connected, including video conferencing tools for meetings and other work-related conversations.
Although today’s advanced technology has made staying in touch while apart easier, the increased use of video conferencing is taking a toll on workers and causing what is known as “Zoom fatigue.”
What is Zoom Fatigue?
During the past few months, Zoom has become the top video conferencing choice for remote workers internationally, as well as for individuals in their personal lives. However, the rise in Zoom calls, and video conferencing in general, has led to an increase in “Zoom fatigue” chatter on social media and queries on search engines. But what does it mean, exactly?
Zoom fatigue is a phenomenon “where people are suddenly more socially overwhelmed than they were before the pandemic” due to the dramatic increase in video calls, in both their professional and personal lives. This blurs work-life boundaries, since people are working and using the same communication tool in their home environments, which can make personal video calls feel like an obligation. As a result, individuals are feeling physically and mentally exhausted.
Why Do We Experience Zoom Fatigue?
Various elements contribute to the exhaustion resulting from video conference calls:
The unprecedented changes linked to COVID-19 have increased stress levels for many. In addition to the uncertainties surrounding the global health and economic crises, the changes in work environments and communication methods have forced individuals to adapt at lightning speed.
Video conferencing also acts as a hectic reminder of the presences in our lives that we have temporarily lost. In an interview with the BBC, Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead, stated that individuals feel distress every time they see someone online, such as their colleagues, because they are reminded that they should be physically together, such as in the workplace.
While virtual calls seemingly provide enhanced connectivity for remote workers, there exists a disconnect in these communications. People are working harder to maintain focus and absorb information during the calls.
According to Petriglieri, “Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. Our minds are together when our bodies feel we're not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting.”
Additional factors can distract staff and cause a disconnect in communications as well. These include colleagues’ backgrounds, technological glitches, increased and prolonged eye contact, the self-consciousness one may feel from being able to see themselves during calls, and the pressure some feel when they receive no immediate audio feedback as they speak while everyone else is on mute.
How Can We Alleviate Zoom Fatigue?
Here are a few methods to combat the issue:
Limit Video Calls
Employers should ask themselves if conference calls are always necessary. In some cases, video calls are not efficient, so managers should evaluate each situation to determine the most effective method of communication, such as text messaging, instant messaging, email, or a phone call. It is a good idea to elicit feedback from teams about the types and the frequency of communication via different methods.
Phone calls, for example, can be less stressful for staff because they do not have to strain their eyes to maintain unbroken eye contact or exaggerate their facial muscles to appear attentive. In addition, “one study found that during a voice-only call, participants conveyed some information in a more accurate way than during a video call.”
Make the Video Function Optional
If managers prefer to communicate via video conferencing systems, then there should be a greater understanding that cameras do not always have to be on during every meeting. Turning this function on should be optional for staff. This will improve workers’ concentration and make group meetings less tiring, because employees will not be distracted by their own image or by others’ surroundings or virtual backgrounds.
Schedule Breaks Between Video Calls
To ensure your teams are not in video calls back-to-back, meetings should be scheduled with adequate spaces between them throughout the workday and the workweek. Managers should encourage their teams to take frequent breaks and step away from the computer occasionally to reduce their on-screen stimuli and refresh their minds. While hours-long meetings are sometimes unavoidable, hosts of such meetings should set aside small pockets of time, such as five minutes, for participants to take a quick break and stretch their legs.
Conduct Check-Ins with Employees
Current events, coupled with the increased expectation of having to “perform” well during video calls, can leave many individuals feeling overwhelmed. It is important for employers to acknowledge this and to check in with their workers to discuss how they are faring during these challenging times.
To avoid even more Zoom fatigue, managers can do phone check-ins with their team members. This gives everyone a break from video conferencing and helps alleviate burnout caused by this mode of communication. Employees may be able to better express difficult emotions during a phone call because they are not focused on staring at their own on-screen image.
This focus on mental and emotional well-being – as well as the use of a communication channel appropriate for the context – provides an opportunity for meaningful connectivity between staff and managers, which can help boost employer trust and decrease employee anxiety and fatigue.
Let TPD Help You
Whether you need help updating your remote-work policies, developing effective communications solutions, or building wellness plans, the qualified HR experts at TPD are here to help you every step of the way. Get in touch with us here, through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 1.844.873.4745. For additional HR resources, please visit our COVID-19 HR Support Centre.