Remote working has increasingly become a norm worldwide. Despite the distance between you and your colleagues, the need for communication does not dwindle. With an increased use of video conferencing platforms to communicate, Zoom fatigue is one of the biggest downsides of remote working. Understanding the pros and cons of WFH helps us learn how to capitalise on its benefits, while managing its downsides.

What is Zoom Fatigue?

Zoom fatigue is the sense of strain, tiredness, or even burnout after hours of communicating with your colleagues or teammates over video conferences. If you are experiencing the following over a period of time, you might be struggling with Zoom fatigue:

  • You often avoid, cancel or reschedule meetings online. 
  • You have a strong urge to spend time alone after meetings.
  • You often feel drained at the end of a meeting.
  • You feel that you’re constantly behind and that you are less able to handle your usual work responsibilities.
  • Your eyes feel strained and heavy from looking at your screen for too long.
  • You experience recurring headaches or migraines

Why do I feel so tired after a day of Video Calls?

Managing Conflicting Demands from Home and Work

While working at home allows for more flexibility with your time, it also means that there may be more disruptions that could intervene with your work. Having to wear multiple hats as you toggle between your work and personal life can be challenging.

Extra Cognitive Load from Video Calls

The gallery view on video calls where we see every participant’s face at a glance poses an extra challenge for the brain. With multiple faces showing up on screen, our brain is constantly multitasking to decode everyone’s faces and take in various information from the backgrounds all at once. We are essentially overwhelmed with various environmental cues all at one go. 

Furthermore, it is harder to decipher facial expressions and tones over zoom. Decoding gestures, facial expressions and tone are key in facilitating communication. What would have been an automatic process in face-to-face interactions now requires intentional effort when we hold discussions online.

With remote working and communications limited through online means, it is crucial for us to manage Zoom fatigue with breaks to maintain work productivity.

Working at home, many struggle with the blurred boundaries and different roles they play working, resting, and tending to their families in the same space. Breaks can help to balance all these elements. Make the most out of your break time by choosing an activity that benefits you, whether it is in your personal life or career. Consider what type of break you need, and choose how to spend your time accordingly.

Take 5 while working from home!

  • Energy break – Go for a coffee run or a snack break to re-energise yourself to help yourself focus better!
  • Social break – Step away from your computer and engage in light-hearted small talk with your coworker, or make a quick phone call to a family member.
  • Work break –  Go for a walk, take a toilet break or look out the window. 

There are also ways to manage Zoom fatigue even in the midst of your work:

  • Figure out a schedule that works best for you
    • With more ownership over your time, aim to figure out what works best for your schedule and for your mental health – know when to take breaks
  • Try not to have back-to-back virtual meetings
    • Allow yourself an eye break – move away from your screen and stretch, drink some water, take a quick break. Take advantage of the little things you actually have more control over now that you’re working from home.
  • Avoid multitasking
    • It’s easy to think that you can use the opportunity to do more on your screen at one time but doing so stretches your focus and concentration levels. The next time you’re on a video chat, close any tabs or programs that might distract you (e.g., your inbox or Slack), put your phone away, and stay present.

How to take breaks while staying accountable?

On the other hand, even if we value and prioritize breaks, sometimes they might unintentionally disrupt our work momentum. Therefore, breaks need to be done right and properly regulated. Another way to have productive breaks is by making ourselves accountable to our coworkers/ teammates.

Let your team know:

  • why you will be gone (“I need to take a break”) 
  • how long will you be gone for (“I will be back in 10 minutes”) 
  • what you will work on when you are back (“I will start working on page 9 when I am back”)
  • what they can expect from you in the meantime (“You can continue to drop me messages, I will respond to them when I am back from my break”)

Capitalize on the benefits of working from home

The flexibility provided with WFH arrangements can actually increase productivity levels and performance. With commuting times cut and more outcome-focused management styles by leaders, employees have more freedom to wake up later and work according to their own working styles. To make this a reality, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Daily check-ins

  • Scheduling daily check-ins about expectations and priorities between managers and employees can help achieve a clear mutual understanding on what is expected. This sets the stage for realistic productivity standards and direction for both parties to manage their work without having to stay on call the whole day. 

Be open

  • As an employee, ask yourself what you can and can’t accomplish realistically based on your home situation and notify your managers. Helping your managers stay in the loop can help prevent misunderstandings. 
  • As an employer, stay open and adaptable to feedback and changes proposed by your employees. 

Efficient Online meetings

  • Be intentional about meeting agendas and ensure that discussions centre around them. Doing so minimises Zoom fatigue and helps support the wellbeing of staff despite remote working.

This period has been tough on many of us. In the face of unprecedented uncertainty, everyone is doing their best to adapt to remote working. Don’t let zoom fatigue hinder you. Empathy and communication of your needs are the key to remote working’s success!