Despite the many uncertainties at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of folks were stoked about the opportunity to work from home. (Goodbye commute, hello pajamas!) But after more than a year of on-screen meetings, presentations, and asking if everyone can see and hear us, a lot of peeps are OVER It. TBH, we can see why. Zoom fatigue is the real deal.

Zoom fatigue

Zoom fatigue (aka virtual fatigue) is when the constant use of video conference calls and meetings lead to burnout. This can make it hard to concentrate on tasks and can bring on feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.

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If this sounds like you, don’t worry, Zoom fam. We have some top-notch tips to help you find better balance between your work life and your actual life.

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Edit by Alexis Lira

Work fatigue was a pre-existing condition long before COVID-19. In fact, the term “burnout” originated in the 1970s. The short definition is when you feel fatigued, stressed, or drained due to your job.

Work-related burnout symptoms include:

  • forgetfulness
  • lack of patience
  • low energy levels
  • reduced work performance
  • feeling lonely, anxious, or overwhelmed
  • physical symptoms like muscle tension or pain
  • difficulty following instructions or concentrating
  • tough time maintaining positive relationships with co-workers or loved ones

It turns out that even without the need to get up before dawn, fight traffic, and pray for a good parking spot, these traditional burnout symptoms can persist just by spending additional hours on screen every week.

If you’re not sure if your burnout is Zoom-specific, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you avoid or cancel Zoom meetings on the reg?
  • Do you feel super tired or anxious before a video call?
  • Has video conferencing affected your ability to perform your normal work tasks?
  • Do you have an increase in headaches or migraine episodes that coincide with video meetings?

Zoom fatigue doesn’t happen overnight. Peeps tend to feel the burn(out) over time. Here’s what might come into play.

Work-life balance disappears

You might be asking, “What’s work-life balance?” Well, we hear ya. In a perfect world, your home should be your safe space. But this can be tough (or even impossible) if your living room has turned into a full-on work station. The combo of personal and professional can feel like Thanos teams up with Voldemort.

You’re always “on”

Despite the comforts of being home, many employees are still expected to dress to the nines. This alone can be annoying. (IT’S MY HOUSE, KAREN. LEAVE MY SNOOPY SWEATSHIRT ALONE.) But some employers take things even further, dictating where you’re allowed to work in your own home. This is the pits, especially if you live in a smaller apartment or have fam or roomies roaming around.

And then there are the last-minute meetings. In-office meetings are usually scheduled in advance so you can add them to your calendar. But when you work from home, a sudden “DING” sound on your laptop can send you into a stressful state trying to prep for an unexpected meeting at a moments notice.

Making things look “normal” is tiring

Having a convo on Zoom can be a lot more taxing than an in-person meeting. You have to decode the tone of the person’s voice, read their pixelated facial expressions, and give the illusion of eye-contact all at the same time. It’s exhausting.

And let’s not forget the tech troubles. Frozen faces, delayed voices, and embarrassing interruptions can be super distracting. It can also impact your ability to understand what someone is saying.

Ready to zap Zoom fatigue?

1. Block it out

Some companies let you set a schedule on a calendar tool. If you notice your fatigue is hitting at the same time each day, put a “NO MEETINGS” block in that time slot. This can help you intentionally build refresh time into your day.

You can also try to schedule your meetings back-to-back over a block of time to get them over with. That way you can focus on one task at a time.

2. Switch to text-based communications

Remember the days of having to track down a co-worker at their desk if you needed to chat with them — or risk your very important email getting lost in the digital sea? Today, online chats are where it’s at! They can be a huge time saver and won’t disrupt your normal work flow. Some popular examples include:

  • Twist
  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams

The only downside is that it can be hard to tell a person’s tone via text. You also have to be careful if your company is anti-emojis or excessive exclamation points.

3. Try pre-recorded meetings

Some meetings can be replaced with a pre-recorded video message. This allows you to be to-the-point with zero distractions. This also helps you avoid the scheduling scaries. Everyone can watch the meeting when they actually have the time.

4. Stick to the agenda, no matter what

Some meetings just drag on… and on… and 💤. No, you don’t always need to have a moderator, but following a simple agenda can go a long way to helping those in your meeting stay productive and focused on the topic at hand.

5. Break it up

Even when you’re in the comfort of your own home, a 3-hour Zoom meeting can feel like torture. Make sure you can take time to stretch your legs, go to the bathroom, and get a cup of java. Just be sure to mind your screen etiquette!

6. Get creative with your camera

Even in a meeting with 50 other people, you might catch yourself staring at your own face. This is totally normal. An easy fix is to turn off self-view. That way you can focus on the person who’s talking.

You can also ask your boss or co-workers if an audio-only meeting would be appropriate. This can take a lot of the pressure off the call.

7. Avoid multitasking

Zoom meetings come with a lot more distractions than in-person meetings. Try to minimize your tabs, turn off your notifications, and put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on your door.

Establish a helpful conference cadence

The fact that connecting over Zoom can be a more flexible option than in-person meetings is precisely why they can easily start to pile up and become overwhelming. It’s 10/10 important to establish healthy meeting habits while you’re working to arrange everything else remotely.

Keep in mind that getting into a good groove or changing up your cadence can take time. And that’s OK!

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Zoom fatigue alone can cause a slew of stressful symptoms. But there’s also a chance work burnout is contributing to a larger underlying issue.

You should def talk with a mental health professional if you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or depressed. They can help you find positive solutions to your current situation and collect additional helpful tools to cope.

Zoom fatigue is a common symptom of working from home. It can lead to anxiety, exhaustion, and depression. That’s why it’s super important that you intentionally build in time to decompress. You can also try to make some changes to your routine that help you hit targets without feeling burned out.