Yes, Zoom fatigue is a real thing and might explain why you have been struggling to stay focused in class or participate in conversations more than normal.
What is Zoom Fatigue and Why Does It Happen?
Humans are social beings, and part of that innate nature is a reliance on non-verbal cues in addition to spoken communication. That includes things like hand gestures, position (e.g. if someone is facing you or not), and intakes of breath. Yet, as Julia Sklar, writing from the National Geographic explains it, “a typical video call impairs these ingrained abilities, and requires sustained and intense attention to words instead.”
Over video call, it becomes increasingly difficult to rely on words and prolonged eye contact through the screen. Unfortunately, that Brady Bunch-style Zoom display that we all love so much might make this even worse. Sklar elaborates: “Gallery view—where all meeting participants appear Brady Bunch-style—challenges the brain’s central vision, forcing it to decode so many people at once that no one comes through meaningfully, not even the speaker.”
Something referred to as “continuous partial engagement” is also a source of fatigue. This is a common feature of video calls and is characterized by focusing on numerous things without being able to hone in on one specific activity.
Strategies for Aiding Zoom Fatigue
While Zoom fatigue is inevitable and occurs through no fault of the individual, there are some actions you can test out to reduce the toll of frequent video conferencing.
- Use the “hide self view” option
Some people find it distracting or otherwise taxing to be constantly watching yourself in action. You do have the option to “hide self view,” which keeps your video on for others to see, while hiding your video window from your own view.
- Allow yourself breaks more often than you might during in-person class or at work
Periodically getting up for a quick stretch or to grab a glass of water will actually help you hold your attention better when sitting down in front of the computer screen.
- If possible, have a few different spaces where you are able to work
Giving yourself the option to move work spaces every now and again will allow for movement and also provide a (albeit small) change of environment.
- Minimize multitasking
It is hard to resist the urge to flip between tabs on your computer and frequently check your email while observing a lecture over video, but this can contribute to a feeling of fatigue coupled with a sense of not having accomplished much. Try to set boundaries on these actions. For example, allow yourself to momentarily glance at your email or Slack once every 45 minutes.
- If you are in the position of leading meetings, be sure to keep them brief
Since so much of our daily lives are now spent on video calls, it is apparent that less really is more. Keep meetings brief and to the point. If many people need to contribute in one meeting, perhaps you could try out “popcorn style” sessions, where each person is given a short, set amount of time to share out.
- Don’t feel bad declining extra meetings, hang-outs, or events over video
Sometimes, knowing your own limits is the best way to help fight Zoom fatigue. If you know you’ve had enough for one day, or have a big day of video calls coming up, don’t feel obliged to push yourself to attend an extra meeting or hang out.