Zoom Fatigue

by Nov 4, 20218 comments

A recent study from the University of Arizona suggests that “Zoom fatigue” is not caused by spending endless hours on zoom calls, but from the stress caused by having the camera always turned on, which forces us to stare endlessly at ourselves. In this study, half the respondents had their cameras turned on and the other half did not. The researchers suggest that the fatigue comes from watching ourselves on a small screen and is more pronounced for women. This was not a big study—just 103 participants, and all from one company.

Lead researcher, Allison Gabriel, observed, “Employees who tend to be more vulnerable in terms of their social position in the workplace, such as women and newer, less tenured employees, have a heightened feeling of fatigue when they must keep cameras on during meetings. Women often feel the pressure to be effortlessly perfect or have a greater likelihood of childcare interruptions, and newer employees feel like they must be on camera and participate in order to show productiveness.”

From this we learn that it appears Zoom fatigue is the result of our egos, not Zoom.

I spend most of my life these days on Zoom. I teach classes every day, helping leaders and professionals of all stripes to be more inspiring and to lead more inspiring lives. It is demanding work, but it is inspiring, and I love it.  And I would have to say that I am not as fatigued from this work as I would be from getting on airplanes and flying around the world making speeches to large audiences and staying away from my family in out-of-town hotels.

We can avoid Zoom fatigue altogether if we follow these simple guidelines:

  • Make sure that everyone turns on their cameras so that we can all see the nuances, the subtleties, the body language and the reactions of everyone. It’s also polite and a mark of respect to everyone else.
  • Remember, it is not about you. If you fuss about how you look and how others might be judging you, it will tire you.  Park your ego and focus on serving everyone else.
  • Invite everyone to share a little about themselves—we are humans in this experience, and our emotional and spiritual connection is even more important than the agenda.
  • Keep it tight. Think through what you want to say and don’t ramble. If you do, Zoom fatigue will quickly develop.
  • Use multiple media formats to keep things moving—video, humor, music, animation, graphics, and more. This is the age of the Internet—not a one-room schoolhouse.
  • Send an outline to participants in advance of your Zoom meeting, thereby eliminating tedious (and fatiguing) briefing time and context-setting on Zoom.
  • Welcome real-life activities, like dogs, cats, small children and other interruptions. These make us real and help us to relate to each other—they are not annoying interruptions. (I often excuse myself for a minute to retrieve my reheated coffee from the microwave—even in the middle of a presentation!)
  • Keep the meetings short and take short breaks every hour.
  • Above all, make sure every Zoom call is inspiring.

What is your experience with Zoom calls and what tips do you have for making them an inspiring part of your life (because Zoom calls are here to stay!)?