While working from home has its plus side, many people are encountering what has now been dubbed as ‘Zoom Fatigue’. According to Dr. Barbara Roberts, Executive Director of the WorkLife Office at Michigan State University, making the shift to all-remote working is fatiguing for several reasons1:
We’re learning to function in a new medium which requires energy and attention as well as multi-tasking. This involves working with new or unfamiliar technologies, becoming acquainted with the appropriate etiquette of working/meeting online, and not least of all, learning how to interact with multiple people that we may not be able to see or hear clearly. And all of this is happening simultaneously, requiring significant focus.
We’re trying to establish new workspaces at home which have all the essential elements we need for our day of work, with as few distractions and interruptions as possible (the doorbell, the dogs, the kids…).
We are establishing new ergonomics in our new environments to alleviate the symptoms of physical fatigue that stack up from endless online meetings sitting in uncomfortable chairs, possibly less movement in a day, on top of increased stress levels.
Working online creates physical strain and fatigue in ways that we may not be used to, and these include eye strain, physical stiffness from limited movement and mental fatigue from sustained concentration in one medium.
To combat the difficult side of the ‘new normal’, virtual work-space, there are a few key things to remember or that you can put into place that will help you to survive the endless online marathon.
Ensure your devices and connection are set up and working correctly well before meeting time. Test your connection, you headphone/speakers and microphone!
Ensure a meeting agenda is in place and has been shared with all participants to avoid unnecessarily long meetings and circular conversations.
Prepare thoroughly, especially if you are presenting or chairing a meeting (just the same as you would for an in-person meeting!). Share notes or presentation decks in advance with participants, if necessary.
Choose an appropriate spot to take the meeting from, preferably a room with a door that can be closed! If you know the dogs are going to start barking madly halfway through the meeting, do whatever you can to avoid the noise and distraction factor.
Become familiar with the online tools you use for meetings and make use of their features. Many platforms have functions such as polls, Q&A, chats, break-away rooms and the ever-important mute Knowing what features you have at your fingertips can assist with meetings running more smoothly.
Dress for the occasion! Make the effort to look good for your fellow meeting participants, especially if you are presenting or leading the meeting. You’ll find you feel pretty good when you look good!
Find ways to bring some fun into calls or meetings, even if it’s once a week. Themed staff meetings or online social gatherings may help to lighten the load of digital fatigue and introduce some much-needed humour and enjoyment.
We may well learn over time how to better navigate the mental tangle of online video meetings, but until then, be gentle on yourself and others, as we re-orientate our daily energy levels and capacity.