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Is Zoom Fatigue Real?

June 19, 2020

By Mary E. Corrado, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Sometimes lately I wonder why I am so exhausted at the end of the day.  I used to travel around from one meeting to another all day long.  Now I have the leisure of doing all my meetings online from the comfort of my own home. But why am I more exhausted now?

Online meetings require a different type of energy.  In a group meeting online, you must process cues from everyone, but probably the biggest difference is that you can also see yourself.  You can’t see yourself when you are sitting in a conference room.  So besides taking in everyone else’s body language you are constantly analyzing your own.

I read an article recently on one of my favorite websites, mindful.org.  The article was written by Steven Hickman, Psy.D. executive director of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.  It offers several tips for avoiding “zoom exhaustion.”

  • Take a few moments before clicking “Start” to settle and ground your attention. Steven suggests taking a few breaths, noticing whatever is present in your mind, and allowing yourself to arrive fully to the moment at hand. Since you are sitting at your computer, it can be difficult not to multi-task, but try to complete that one last email before signing on so that you can give the meeting your full attention.
  • Take the time to truly greet whoever is in the room with your full attention.  Offer your attention to each person that arrives (if the group is not too big). Acknowledge each person as they arrive just as you would if they walked into a conference room.
  • Choose “speaker view.” In Zoom, one can choose Speaker View or Gallery View.  With Speaker View you only see who is speaking, and the others are more peripheral. This more closely resembles how you would act in a conference room.  You typically are looking only at the person speaking. This will greatly reduce the input your brain is receiving. I’m not sure which programs offer this in addition to Zoom, but this sounds very helpful.  We use Teams, so I will be seeking out this feature. 
  • Try to take measured breaks between sessions. Try not to schedule back to back video meetings. Take time in between to decompress and get any quick to-do’s done from the prior meeting.  Just as back-to-back in-person meetings can be exhausting, so can virtual meetings.  Schedule time in between in each one and try to space them out throughout the week.

In the past we had a combination of in-person meetings, video meetings, and phone meetings. The changes in environment throughout the day can be energizing.  But now our environment doesn’t change.  And with so many video meetings, we are always “on.” What used to be a simple phone call, is now often a video meeting.  This can cause true exhaustion by the end of the day.  So be careful to space out your meetings, and remember, sometimes a simple phone call is still sufficient.

How have you adjusted to the influx of virtual meetings?  Email me at mcorrado@aseonline.org.

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