Zoom Fatigue: Why Video Calls Can Be So Draining

The pandemic steamrolled many of us into hybrid or remote work and paved the rise of virtual meetings. To sustain and build company culture while our team members may be thousands of miles away, we’ve held virtual meetings to keep everyone engaged and in the loop.

But now there’s the phenomenon of “Zoom fatigue,” the mental exhaustion that occurs after a day of videoconferencing and it’s very real.

Zoom Fatigue Isn’t Just in Your Head

Researchers from Stanford University just released the first peer-reviewed article on Zoom fatigue. Here are some of its key findings: 

In-person communications are easier on our brains. Screen-based interactions can feel intense. The amount of eye contact we engage in alongside the size of faces on screens is unnatural. Heads are shown at unnatural sizes and at a closer distance than you’d normally see in-person. Not to mention, people are constantly staring at you. Our brains interpret it as an intense situation.

Cognitive load is higher in video chats. Our brains work a lot harder to find, interpret and create gestures and nonverbal cues. We exaggerate our actions to make sure the other party understands our intentions and we’re simply not getting all the nonverbal cues we’d get with in-person meetings. 

Seeing yourself in real-time is exhausting. Most video conferencing platforms will have a video of you in the corner of the window. It’s akin to performing in front of a mirror and you naturally become more critical of yourself. Research has found the constant self-reflection to be stressful, especially for women

Steps to Conduct Better Meetings

Meetings should energize your team members, not drain them. To make the best out of them, here are some steps you can take: 

  1. Ask yourself if the meeting is necessary. Would it be more effective to send the information out in an email? A memo? It’s not just meetings that are tiring, but the frustration of not having our time be valued and used effectively. 
  2. Make sure everyone who’s in the meeting needs to be there. Inviting more people than necessary or leaving out someone who’s key in a particular meeting both waste time. 
  3. Have a clear agenda and stick to a timeline. This is especially important for larger meetings where it may be easier to get sidetracked. Appoint someone to lead the discussion and another to monitor it if necessary. Knowing what the meeting needs to cover lets all attendants know what to expect. 

Virtual meetings are here to stay, but Zoom fatigue doesn’t have to. As more people log into popular video chat platforms to connect, it’s important to help your team members prevent burnout and mental exhaustion. The good news is that there are always ways we can make virtual meetings fun and productive even in such uncertain times.