Have you noticed that after spending time on Zoom, you feel tense or tired? This experience is really common (and yes, very real) and has been coined “Zoom fatigue”.
Why Zoom fatigue happens
A good portion of the time we Zooming from our home environment. Which means that you might not be in your ideal ‘work’ environment. Some of you might be lucky to have a great home office set up, but plenty of us might be perched at the kitchen table, squashed into a small corner of the bedroom or even out in the garage!
You are also much more likely to have other distractions from your family, flatmates or kids in the background.
Not to mention a certain level of anxiety about what’s happening with this global pandemic that got so many of us into this new way of working in the first place.
Some of these factors can be managed or improved, but it is important to acknowledge these environmental aspects have an impact on our overall level of comfort, tension and ability to concentrate before we even turn our computer on!
Zoom adds an extra layer of weirdness to the online experience because having your video broadcast out there heightens your awareness of being seen and appearing “on”. This vigilance and self-monitoring can be exhausting.
With having a video call we assume that everyone is paying close attention to every move we make. But of course, this isn’t really true. Everyone else on the call is probably also worried about their own self-view (and wondering if that is what my neck really looks like?!).
Of course, you can simply turn your camera off so you can’t see yourself or change the view to speaker view (assuming someone else is doing most of the talking). This can be quite liberating. However I also found it a little anxiety inducing, as without being able to see myself, I couldn’t monitor whether my expression still read “interested” or how many times I did things like touch my face without realising. I also found I wasn’t as engaged in the meeting and tended to start multi-tasking.
Also when we have the camera on we tend to keep our heads in the middle of the screen and sit in one position for a long period of time. This fixed posture and gaze also add more tension and strain to our usual sitting posture.
When I’m on a Zoom call, I notice that I stay VERY still with a wide fixed stare. Almost like a possum caught in headlights. It doesn’t help that my laptop is old and the camera blurs with any movement from my end. This means I also often cross my arms to curb my tendency to wave them around.
And I’ve observed similar posture and fixed gazes in others on my Zoom calls.
I’ve discovered that there are some things I can do to avoid Zoom fatigue and improve my posture during Zoom meetings, whether the camera is on or camera off.
Here’s my top 5 solutions for avoiding Zoom Fatigue
Move your eyes
Zoom can sometimes feel like a staring competition with everyone intensely gazing at their screens. Our brain is highly tuned to lock onto the gaze of others and if we do that continually for hours on end, it’s no wonder our eyes can feel tired and strained!
Every five to 10 minutes, move your eyes to briefly glance away from the computer. It is a good idea to look at something in the middle distance above your screen. This change in focal length (short distance or long distance) is a really good way to rest and refresh your eyes.
Plus, another reason that looking at yourself is so tiring (other than that hyperawareness thing), is that it just isn’t natural for us to share eye contact with others for such extended periods of time.
If you hark back to the good old days where we sat in office boardrooms for meetings, you would not stare at the person speaking for the entire meeting even if you were directly opposite them. And neither would they be looking directly back at you.
Adjust your screen height
Since Zoom often involves lots of listening or watching, it can be a good idea to raise your device up so the camera is at eye level (if it’s not already). Having your camera in line with eye height means you don’t crane your neck or jut your chin out so much, and let’s face it, it’s also a slightly more flattering angle.
Having the right angle also means you can avoid leaning forward or crunching yourself up to stay in the frame.
For my Zoom meetings, I put my laptop up on two massive dictionaries to get it to the right height (and so I don’t have to look up my own nose!).
Notice your feet
Do you have the habit of tucking your feet up under your chair? Or maybe resting your heels on the legs of your chair? Or crossing your legs? I often find that I’ve unconsciously tucked my feet under my chair crossed at the ankles. Particularly if I’m feeling a bit tired.
When you put your feet on the floor, you will find that it helps you sit more upright. It also helps prevent chronic tightness in your hips and calves which often accompanies long periods of sitting. And of course, with your feet on the floor, you are more likely to literally feel grounded and stay focused on your call.
If having your feet on the floor feels too hard (or you can’t reach the floor easily!), simply begin by having your legs uncrossed at the knee or ankle.
Tempting as it is to do several things at once during Zoom meetings (especially to “double” screen with another device), I recommend NOT doing this during your Zoom calls.
Engaging in multiple activities or types of media is super distracting. Research has also shown that multitasking makes performing simple tasks harder and feel more taxing.
I’ve been guilty of having a text conversation or email chat with someone during a call, then being caught out with an unexpected question and no idea what’s going on. Oops.
So time to turn off your phone (or at least turn it over), close the door to the kids in the next room, so you can be more in the moment, switched on and feel less tired.
Use keyboard shortcuts
Depending on the device you are using, you might have the option to use a keyboard to unmute yourself. This helps you be able to have your chair a reasonable distance from the screen (more room to move) and stops the Zoom “lean” posture. But most importantly it means that you can let go of your death grip on your mouse as you constantly ready yourself for the moment to unmute!
The magic buttons on your computer to mute / unmute yourself are Alt+A for Windows users and Command(⌘)+Shift+A for those on MAC/OS. Some devices you can simply press and hold the spacebar to unmute. For more keyboard shortcuts, check out the Zoom hot keys and keyboard shortcut help article.
The best way of all to avoid Zoom fatigue of course is to have less meetings, or schedule plenty of breaks in between. Though it seems that Zoom (or a variation) will be here to stay so knowing how to keep yourself healthy and sane while doing so is a great idea.
Another way to beat Zoom fatigue (or use Zoom in a different way at least) is to try out a Zoom Feldenkrais "Not Yoga" class which is a lovely change from your usual work meeting. You get to lie down on the floor and close your eyes, so Zoom fatigue is most definitely not a thing. And in fact you can unwind your body and mind to discover an amazing relaxed state.
What do you do to avoid Zoom fatigue? Let me know in the comments.