Zoom fatigue is real, but you can take back your workplace

Written by Caroline Dowd-Higgins. Posted in Featured

Published on September 01, 2020 with No Comments

Before mandatory shelter-in-place, which necessitated working from home, I had never spent so much time on Zoom. Meetings with geographically distant colleagues via Zoom were a great way to connect with anyone, anywhere but it was not the primary way I conducted business.

Whether you are using Zoom, Teams, or one of the many online meeting platforms, it’s easy in our ubiquitous virtual workplace to get tired or become distracted due to screen sensory overload.

Zoom Fatigue is a real thing and the Harvard Business Review noted that this phrase has become a top Google search since the onset of the pandemic.

According to an HBR article by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy, Zoom fatigue forces us to focus more intently on conversations in order to absorb information.

“Think of it this way: when you’re sitting in a conference room, you can rely on whispered side exchanges to catch you up if you get distracted or answer quick, clarifying questions. During a video call, however, it’s impossible to do this unless you use the private chat feature or awkwardly try to find a moment to unmute and ask a colleague to repeat themselves.”

The constant gaze into the Zoom video makes us tired, and for many, uncomfortable. What’s a Zoom destined work-from-home person to do, since the foreseeable future looks like much of the same?

Here are some Zoom fatigue hacks to take back control of your work environment and your productivity.


Breaks are non-negotiable


Pre-pandemic, when I was working on a college campus, I would build in walk-time to commute to meetings to assure my timely arrival with a few minutes to spare before the start of a session. I could plan for a bio break, or a chance to fill my water bottle, maybe even chat with a colleague. Now that we are at home, it’s more important than ever to maintain those breaks.

Standing, stretching, even changing location if you are mobile with a laptop can reset your focus in-between meetings. Have the courage to set the new standard if you are scheduling meetings to allow for these quick breaks. Encourage your colleagues to do the same since chances are – they are also struggling with perpetual meetings.

Meetings don’t have to be 60 minutes. Try a 45-minute meeting with an agenda and see if you can be efficient and enjoy the 15-minute gift of time to prepare for what’s next.


Mix it up with a phone call


For my own mental clarity (and sanity) I will often suggest a phone meeting instead of a video call if the meeting is with one person.  This gives my eyes a break and allows me to focus on my colleague’s voice so I can give them my full and undivided attention.


Schedule focus time


My biggest challenge is finding time to do the work when the day becomes a perpetual Zoom meeting. Carve out focus time in your day to flex different intellectual muscles and accomplish things that don’t require a meeting.

You must fiercely protect this time in your schedule and train your colleagues to respect these boundaries as well. I suggest going through your calendar for the next 90 days to establish focus time – and plan for your PTO while you are at it. Don’t be a PTO loser even if a get-away vacation is not an option – down time is essential for your health and wellness.


Fresh air, movement, and stillness


Whether it’s a noon time dog walk or a morning mailbox check, I try to get outside for a few minutes several times a day. Breathing fresh air is stimulating and if it’s a sunny day, a quick dose of Vitamin D helps me re-charge.

I have ramped up my exercise during the pandemic and enjoy livestream workout classes from my local Pure Barre Studio. Since my time sitting at a desk has increased working from home, I am more committed to staying active to maintain optimal health as the pandemic continues to be a concern.

Sometimes I grab a 10-minute guided meditation via my online Evenflow Meditation app to preserve my mental clarity, calm, and balance. I’m still a novice in my meditation practice, so the guided meditations are ideal for me to customize based on a specific theme or duration. Short meditations have been a lifesaver for me since the silent stress of the pandemic can take its toll on all of us.

The most important thing to remember about Zoom fatigue and the many work-from-home challenges is that you need not relinquish control. Set boundaries, tell family and colleagues what you need and honor yourself in the process.

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About Caroline Dowd-Higgins

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" (now in the 2ndedition) and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Vice President of Career Coaching and Employer Connections for the Ivy Tech Community Collegesystem and contributes to Huffington PostThrive GlobalEllevate Network,Mediumand The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana.Her online show:Thrive!about career & life empowerment for women is on YouTube. Caroline hosts the award winning podcast, Your Working Lifeon iTunesand SoundCloud. Follow her on FacebookLinkedIn,Google+,and Twitter.

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