Forced to work from home? It’s not perfect, but hey, there’s always Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and any number of webcam apps to help you stay in touch with your teammates. Then, just when people start using these tools and getting used to them, we learn about “Zoom Fatigue.” This is a perfect example of why, as my mother said, we can’t have nice things.
It feels like every time a tool is invented to make our life and work easier, people find a way to misuse, overuse, and just plain abuse it.
What is Zoom Fatigue and is it even a real thing?
According to this article from National Geographic, it sure is. And the reasons make perfect sense:
- A benefit of webcams is you can see the non-verbal signals during communication that help us understand each other. The problem is that it takes more work to pick those signs up during a webcam call.
- Similarly, seeing everyone in Gallery View (also known as Brady Bunch View, where you can see multiple people at the same time) is much more stressful on the eye than taking in a bunch of people at the same time in a meeting room in real life.
- When presenting in person, we get constant feedback that energizes our brains. Smiles, nods, laughter, and other signs of engagement energize most presenters. Without that feedback, the information is flowing only one way. That is draining for the one pushing the information.
- Constantly being under pressure to smile, demonstrate you are listening, and not appear sloppy or unprofessional adds stress we really don’t need, especially if we’re trying to take part in the meeting while keeping one eye on toddlers, dogs or needy spouses.
What are the alternatives or solutions?
Okay, what should be a useful tool is now draining our will to live. Does that mean we shouldn’t use Zoom or other webcam apps? Of course not. Webcams are a vital part of keeping a team connected and social. That said, here are some ways to be mindful about your team communication and avoid the dreaded Zoom burnout:
- Keep meetings short and focused. Pre-Corona, the biggest complaint about the work place was too many, long, boring meetings. Guess what causes Zoom fatigue? The problem isn’t the camera, it’s the #Q$@%@#$%ing meeting! Pick your shots.
- Short one-on-one conversations are better than long discussions.
- Before WebEx, there was this thing called the telephone. It still works. Sometimes you just need to talk and not worry about what your hair looks like. You know that meeting that could have been an email? Use email. Choose the right tool for the right job.
- During meetings, change the view on your screen so your eyes don’t work so hard. I like to see everyone at the beginning of the meeting when saying hi, but once we get down to business I like to go to “speaker view,” so that I only see the active speaker. That way I’m not constantly scanning the screen or getting distracted by what Alice and her cat are up to.
Email is both a great tool and the bane of our lives. Instant messaging is a great way to communicate in short bursts, and it’s a source of interruptions and annoyance. Webcams are the best thing to happen to remote teams (seriously, can you imagine getting through the last two months without using them at all?) But like everything in life, we have to use the right tool for the right reason in the right way. Don’t let Zoom Fatigue undermine your efforts to stay connected with your teammates.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. You can pre-order Kevin and Wayne’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, now.