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Zoom Fatigue: How to Deal with It

Whether it’s for work, class, or even just to stay in contact with friends while stay-at-home orders are in place, it seems like everyone everywhere is now using Zoom.

The mental health consequences of recent technology have been a hot topic for years, and now more than ever. Who would have thought the day would come when the reverse of “get off your phone and go outside” is the safer option?

These days, all we can do is stare at a screen, since seeing people in person isn’t really an option— at least not a safe one. It’s still important to be careful about how we use technology, though, because Zoom fatigue is very, very real.

Where does it come from?

Getting burnt out from spending too much time working is hardly a foreign concept, but the new way in which we work due to the pandemic brings with it its own set of unique challenges.

Zoom burnout can simply be caused by the strain looking at a screen for too long has on our eyes, but the technological aspect isn’t the sole reason why the platform falls short of in person interaction.

It’s much more difficult to read someone else’s facial expressions and body language while only staring at them from the shoulders up. Communicating effectively is much harder when you can’t easily gauge how the other person is reacting.

You also can never know if the other person is actually listening to you, as they could just as easily have pulled up another window on their computer.

An image of a man sitting alone in a dark room, facing two computer screens.
Sitting alone with a computer screen really isn’t the best for mental health under more normal circumstances, and now Zoom necessitates it. The fatigue is real.

Plus, it’s nearly impossible to make eye contact since your eyes won’t seem to be looking at the person in front of you unless you look at your webcam— in which case, you won’t be looking at them at all.

The fact that you can see your own face in Zoom calls can also be incredibly distracting. It’s difficult not to be all-too-aware of how you look when you’re basically looking in a mirror. And while Zoom has a camera off function, how will the other people in the call know you’re paying attention if you’re not visible?

In addition, the circumstances that have everyone on Zoom have necessitated more meetings than before, at least in workplaces. So burn-out is incredibly hard to avoid.

How do you get rid of it?

There are ways to avoid getting burnt out on Zoom, though. First and foremost, Zoom is hardly the only way of having meetings or communicating via technology, so switch to emails or phone calls when possible. 

Each of these has its own strengths and weaknesses, and video isn’t always necessary— or even preferred —to communicate properly. It can add unnecessary pressure, especially if this is the first time you’re meeting with the other people.

Zoom fatigue is also much easier to avoid if, when you must use the platform, keeping cameras on is encouraged, but not required. This will allow everyone involved to participate at the level they’re comfortable with.

An image of an old woman holding a phone in her hand. She is on a video call with a man in a baseball cap.
With FaceTime, Skype, and other video call platforms, your own screen is much smaller in comparison to the other person’s. With Zoom, everyone’s screen is the same size regardless of how many people.

Though it might be tempting, avoiding multitasking while on Zoom can actually make the experience a lot less draining. You should work to limit your distractions, as there are countless waiting for you on your computer.

Hiding yourself from view on Zoom may not sound like the best idea, but it may just be what you need to help you focus if you find your gaze always coming  back to your own camera. If you’re distracted by other people’s cameras or backgrounds, try putting your Zoom on speaker view so you can only see who’s talking or encouraging the use of plain backdrops.

Many workplaces are also encouraging social events on Zoom, since meeting up in person isn’t safe. While this is a good idea in theory, these events should always be optional. Even if you’re not doing work, Zoom fatigue is still a likely result.

The best way to avoid Zoom burnout, though, is to limit one’s time on Zoom. Built-in breaks during sessions can do wonders, as well as set agendas, and the more interactive those sessions are the better for mental health.

How do you remedy it?

Unfortunately, getting burnt out from Zoom meetings isn’t always easily prevented. Sometimes staying on Zoom for long periods of time is just unavoidable when there’s work to be done.

The video call platform has become a staple of our businesses and education systems since the very beginning of the pandemic. Though while staying safe at home you might come down with a case of Zoom fatigue, there are remedies for once you’re tired out in addition to ways to stop the problem at the source.

Stand up and stretch— on Zoom, if you can! Moving around is necessary for both mental and physical health, and so going on walks to clear your head can be brilliant for mental health. Fresh air is really important, as well as sunlight.

An image of several masked people walking and biking down a path in a park, with trees on either side.
Any kind of exercise can do wonders for mental health, and there’s no reason you can’t get some much needed fresh air and also stay safe!

Getting lenses that block the artificial blue light from your screen can decrease the strain on your eyes by a lot, which will make staying in a Zoom call for long periods of time much easier.

In addition, you may want to keep something on your desk next to your computer in case you get fidgety, as sitting still for ages can make even the most professional of people squirm. Stress balls, fidget toys, silly putty— there are plenty of options that will help you focus while also getting your energy out.

Zoom burnout is a real issue, but there are many ways to combat it so that you don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed. And, if you do get overwhelmed, there are ways to feel better, too.