How do you feel after a Zoom call? If you're drained, cranky, and unable to move on to the next task, you're most likely experiencing meeting fatigue. However, instead of acknowledging how you feel, you might brush it off and keep on working. You might even feel guilty that you're not only unproductive. Unfortunately, meeting fatigue is real, and it has severe consequences. According to Zoom fatigue statistics from Robert Half, a global staffing firm, 38% of workers reported experiencing video call fatigue since the pandemic started. This article aims to help you make small changes to alleviate Zoom fatigue syndrome, and ideally, end meeting fatigue completely.
Virtual fatigue meaning: The feeling of complete exhaustion that happens after one or a series of virtual meetings. This type of work fatigue has long plagued remote professionals. Still, it became newsworthy and a global concern during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when companies were forced to operate remotely. The feeling of fatigue may be one you know all too well, but you might ask, "Why am I so tired after a Zoom meeting or what about how to stop yawning in meetings?" 😅
Since remote work took off and most, if not all companies transitioned to a work from a home model, electronic meetings, 'aka' video meetings became the norm. With that said, just because everyone is holding them, doesn't mean they're any good!
This meeting fatigue meme from The Office probably describes the feeling best. If you can relate, I'm sure you'll get a kick out of these funny meeting memes too.
Okay, yes, we feel tired and may want to scream, but what is it exactly about video meetings that make us feel so darn exhausted? According to Standford researchers, there are four reasons why we are more stressed during video conferencing calls:
When you are meeting someone face to face, your brain processes non-verbal cues subconsciously. You're also not forced to have eye contact with everyone simultaneously. Lastly, you can move freely: You can take notes, drink a cup of coffee, and even stand up from time to time.
On the other hand, in video calls, we try so hard not to look distracted. Ironically, according to Zippia's Zoom Meeting Distraction statistics, "67% of workers are distracted during virtual meetings." More than 50% of respondents also admitted to checking their emails during a call while a few are even doing house chores.
Now that we know what is video fatigue and why we have it, here are a few questions, as outlined by Health Line which you can ask yourself, to know whether Zoom fatigue syndrome is present:
If you answered yes to any of the above, it may be time to re-evaluate the number of video meetings you are having.
With the rise of the number of meetings, remote leaders have turned to Google for answers. No, they didn't type "physical symptoms of Zoom fatigue" on Google search. Instead, they are turning to books like, How Google Works written by Google executives Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg. In the book, they shared their guidelines on how they run meetings at Google.
Let's focus on the top three rules Google goes by to help mitigate meeting fatigue and avoid employees from experiencing Zoom fatigue syndrome.
Uncertainty about a meeting increases a person's anxiety, leading to a more stressful meeting experience. That's why it's crucial to co-create the meeting agenda and send it out ahead of time. Using meeting templates can also help you save time.
Additionally, if the meeting requires a discussion on data and reports, make sure to send it out ahead of time and ask attendees to read up on which points will be the focus on the call. Alternatively, you can run an asynchronous meeting instead.
If in a decision-making meeting, try to set the criteria ahead of time. Are you deciding whether to outsource a project or to hire in-house? Share the criteria or restrictions that people need to know to decide, such as the budget, timeline, and scope of the project.
And if you still feel anxious and tired after a meeting, here are some quick tips to rejuvenate:
There are more Zoom fatigue solutions, but these three can be good to start with and are easy enough to implement.
While preparing for calls and making sure you get plenty of breaks may help, they are band-aid solutions. Author Anthony J. D'Angelo's famous quote says it best:
"When solving problems, dig at the roots instead of just hacking at the leaves."
Symptoms are often indicators of a bigger problem: your mindset around Zoom calls.
Nowadays, Zoom has become a default form of communication. Planning to brainstorm an idea? Get on a Zoom call. Planning to have a meeting? You hold meetings about meetings.
As a remote leader, it's time to build an async-first culture and change everyone's mindset around Zoom calls. It won't happen overnight, but it's crucial to start making small changes, from conducting a meeting call audit to reflecting on your career choices.
So, how do you avoid meeting fatigue once and for all?
Go over your calendar and perform an inventory of all of your video calls. Observe how many calls you have in a day, week, or month. Are there recurring daily or weekly calls that can be removed completely? Ask yourself, are we having this call because it's routine, or because we actually need to have it?
While taking your call inventory, keep in mind that if you're running retrospective meetings, make sure to include a section about improving your overall communication. There's a good chance you might be able to eliminate many of your recurring calls.
Not all meetings need to be in real-time. Smart and productive remote teams are masters of asynchronous communication. They know when to use email, private chats, and documents effectively. For example, do you need to hold daily standups on Zoom? Or can you replace them with an asynchronous check-in instead? Using asynchronous tools makes it easy for distributed teams to check-in asynchronously and keep in the loop with what their team is working on.
If you did everything you can to eliminate unnecessary recurring calls and switched to a few asynchronous meetings and you still experience meeting fatigue, maybe it's time to make a bigger change. Some companies, industries, and roles naturally have more meetings. According to CNBC, "Some people have as many as nine or ten video meetings in a day." This is especially true if you're a CEO, manager, or in sales.
If you're an introvert who values deep work and find Zoom calls extremely draining, you might need to transition to a new role or look at a career change. This type of change doesn't need to be extreme. For example, you can always ask your HR department if it's possible to switch to an individual contributor role. The best example I can share is my own, wherein I transitioned from a Marketing Manager to a Content Creator role. With this change, I was able to eliminate daily and weekly management calls. Eventually, after more optimization, I eliminated 90% of my Zoom calls.
At the end of the day, the goal is to find the right work set up for you where you feel energized to work and contribute without feeling like a burnout victim to meeting fatigue. It will take time, but it's the small changes you'll make daily, that will make the biggest difference.