How to beat zoom fatigue and meeting burnout

Zoom meetings can be very exhaustive and mentally draining. We've experienced this and after doing hours of research implemented a process that helps the team prevent burnout, and stay more engaged in meetings.

Zoom meetings have become a constant in everyone’s life. A large part of our work and entertainment is happening through this online tool, as many of us are spending more time at home.


As a consequence, we have started to hear about something called Zoom burnout or Zoom fatigue, a general feeling of being drained after joining several video conferencing calls.


In your business, Zoom might be the tool you chose to keep in touch with your team members. And now you might be concerned, thinking that you have brought a problem to your team. So, let’s discuss what exactly Zoom fatigue is and what you can do to avoid it.

What is Zoom burnout, and what causes it


For starters, Zoom burnout isn’t only about Zoom. It got its name due to the popularity of this online tool, but any virtual meeting solution can cause it.


Also, be aware that the overuse of the video conferencing tool is at the core of the issue. Hosting a video call now and then shouldn’t lead to fatigue.


Zoom burnout is usually described as a feeling of extreme tiredness with no other reasonable cause. It can also be presented as a constant headache.


The reasons behind it are yet to be 100% defined, but, according to an article published by the Psychiatric Times, we can list the following:


  • The delay in the virtual verbal responses affecting negatively our interpersonal perceptions
  • Multitasking during the video conferencing, such as checking your phone or browsing other websites during the call
  • Lack of a perceived reward, as we are wired to prefer in-person interactions
  • Difficulty to visualize verbal cues, which are essential to deciding how to behave
  • Lack of mutual gaze, as people are more likely to look at the screen instead of the camera

Apparently, it’s the sum of all the reasons above that generate fatigue. You should also take into account possible psychological issues linked to pandemic times, such as financial concerns or other stress factors.



The pros and cons of Zoom meetings


To be clear, Zoom meetings aren’t evil. A tool can only do what you ask it to do. It’s up to you to decide when its use has gone beyond healthy limits.


In this context, let’s get an overview of the pros and cons of Zoom meetings. They also apply to the majority of virtual meeting tools available.


Pros:


  • The free version gives you access to a reliable video conferencing tool
  • The pro unlimited time version is affordable
  • It’s very easy to use once you learn what to do
  • Security has been improved recently
  • It works well with most video conferencing equipment
  • It comes with useful features, such as chat room and screen sharing


Cons


  • Your team must be available at the same time, which might not be suitable for remote workers based in different time zones. Or to those working from home and with families or flatmates present during the calls.


  • Sitting on a chair staring at a screen for several hours per day can cause all sort of health problems, such as headaches, back pain, and eye strain


  • Technical problems, such as someone not knowing how to set up for the session, internet connection issues, or poor/malfunctioning equipment, can make virtual meetings tiresome.


How to identify your team is going into Zoom burnout


You will notice that your team might be going into Zoom burnout by observing the following factors:


  • They try to find any excuse not to attend a meeting
  • They attend, but their minds don’t seem to be following the conversation
  • When asked later, they can’t remember what has been discussed in the meeting
  • You are receiving an increasing number of notifications about health issues in your team, either physical or psychological.


Avoiding Zoom fatigue


Thankfully, there are things you can do to solve it or, at least, to minimize the negative impact of virtual meetings.


End Zoom meetings


The most obvious way to avoid Zoom fatigue is ending virtual meetings altogether. It would certainly do the trick. But let’s agree this is not feasible for most businesses, especially during pandemic times. Also, many companies have team members living in different parts of the world.


Limit the duration of virtual meetings


An option that might help is to limit the duration of your virtual meetings. The longer the session goes, the more likely it’s that people will be fatigued. Create a meeting agenda and keep the conversation to the point, avoiding an excessive amount of small talk or banter. This will help you to decrease the time spent per meeting.


Limit the frequency of virtual meetings


Likewise, the more often you book meetings, the greater the chances to burn out your team. Before sending invitations, think if there is another way to discuss the topic. If a collective conversation must be held, invite-only those essential to the discussion. The rest of the team can catch up later by watching a replay or reading a transcription.


Allow camera off


Part of the Zoom burnout is caused by having to be live on camera and/or sitting on a chair. So, consider the possibility of allowing your team to turn off the camera and participate via audio. Unless you must see their faces for some specific reason, it tends to be as productive.



Text your team


In many cases, a text group chat is enough to discuss a topic. Yes, written communication has limitations and can lead to misinterpretations. But it works fine if all you need is to catch up or share a short piece of information. And you can do it through any messaging system you already have, such as Slack or Zoho Cliq.


Pick up the phone


It seems old-fashioned to suggest it, but audio conferencing through phone calls is still a possibility. It follows the same principle of a Zoom meeting with the camera off with the advantage of staying away from screens altogether. Talk to your phone system provider and ask what they can offer you. It might be cheaper than you think.



Host async meetings


Last but not least, you can substitute some (if not all) your virtual sessions with async meetings. In other words, you will have video conversations with your team non-simultaneously. If you choose this option, stay away from WhatsApp. Use a secure and professional tool, such as RemoteWorkly or Yac. They also usually come with extra tools, such as transcription and screen sharing.



If there is a will, there is a way


As you can see, there are many ways to avoid Zoom burnout without compromising your communication with your team members. Consider why you need to host virtual meetings and implement the solutions more suitable to your businesses. It will make Zoom fatigue a thing of the past.

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