August 6, 2020

Fighting Zoom Fatigue

What is Zoom fatigue?

Zoom fatigue refers to the mental and physical exhaustion brought on by participating in multiple or back-to-back video conferences throughout the day. Those experiencing Zoom fatigue begin feeling detached, distracted and ready for a nap. 

With nearly 70% of employees working remotely as of May, it’s no surprise this condition has become a hot topic as of late. COVID-19 has brought a dramatic hike in the use of video calls across organizations — from sales pitching, to internal team meetings and town halls to happy hours.    

But how do you manage a full schedule of video calls while staying productive (and sane)? Let’s take a look at why Zoom fatigue happens and how to combat it.

Why do video calls make you tired?

Back in the day, when the majority of employees were going into an office (remember those days?), they could meet with colleagues face-to-face. Interactions involved body language and other non-verbal cues like gestures and posture. 

Through Zoom, all meeting participants can do to engage with one another is to maintain eye contact while speaking and listening. They have to work harder to focus and show they are listening and interested in what others are saying. 

Additionally, in today’s work-from-home environment, people are stuck in one place for a long time. Whereas in an office, employees might leave to get lunch, take a break outside or chat with a coworker at their desk, they can now only venture between the rooms of their homes, leaving them antsy while sitting through hours of video conferences. Not to mention the inherent distractions that exist in our homes, from typical emails and text messages to the snacks in the kitchen and sounds or disturbances from pets or other members of the household. 

How to stop Zoom fatigue

Fortunately, there are ways to eliminate, or at least mitigate, Zoom fatigue day after day.

Double check your connection

Nothing interrupts the flow of a good conversation more than a poor internet connection. When you start cutting in and out, it takes valuable time out of a coworker’s (or worse, buyer’s) schedule and frustration can arise. Conversations become hard to follow, and it’s difficult to get everyone back into the meeting mindset after such an interruption. 

While you only have so much power over the quality of your connection, it’s important to check the state of your network before video calls and adjust your own home office tech stack if lagging starts to become a regular occurrence. Stay as close to your WiFi router as possible and close out of any applications you aren’t using. 

Keep your camera on

Always keep your camera on. Simply knowing people can see you will make you more alert and focused. While it may be tempting to turn off your camera when everyone else is sitting with it off, it’s okay to be the odd man out and leave it on — especially if it’s a client or sales call. If you are listening to a customer or prospect, the camera will capture expressions and body language that demonstrate your engagement. When a customer sees you taking notes and actively listening, it signals you value what they’re saying and strengthens trust for the long term. 

Don’t underestimate small talk

Current events are unprecedented and affecting everyone differently. If natural and appropriate, find out how others on the call are impacted at work, home and in their personal life. People buy from those they like, know and trust. Not everyone will engage, but it’s worth asking. Write down certain anecdotes, like a prospect getting a new puppy, and bring it up later on the call or in future conversations to build an emotional connection and show you’re paying attention.

Be respectful of a customer’s schedule and be clear that you are bringing something new to the table every meeting. Thank them for their time, explain exactly what you intend to accomplish on the call and ask if there is anything else they would like to address. This introduction demonstrates your care and interest in the customer and ensures all parties feel that the time spent was worthwhile, ultimately preventing Zoom fatigue. If your plan going into a call is to review topics already discussed, consider whether an email recap would be just as effective without taking up everyone’s time. 

Be conversational

Strictly reading off of slides from your presentation is a surefire way to bring everyone’s — including your own — energy down. Slides are a great way to convey a lot of information in a short amount of time, but can also be a barrier to having real, valuable conversations. Use the data and information on the slides as a visual guide, not a script. 

Make your presentations interactive if possible, so the person on the other end has the opportunity to chime in and participate rather than passively watch. Try to avoid rambling straight for 20 or 30 minutes and leaving the group discussion for the end of the call; keep it conversational and pause to gauge reactions and ask/answer questions every few minutes. Record presentations to review afterward so you can identify where interest gets lost and make adjustments over time to make them as engaging as possible.

Limit distractions

Even within the four corners of your screen live an infinite amount of distractions, from social media sites, to your email, to the folders on your desktop. While you may think you can successfully accomplish other tasks while listening in on a call, the truth is that multitasking can cost you as much as 40% of your productivity, according to Harvard Business Review.

Close out of any unnecessary tabs, windows and programs and try to keep your phone outside of your reach while on calls — or turn it off completely to resist the urge to peek at messages. That text from your mom can wait.

Keep in mind that quick, internal check-ins or one-on-ones may sometimes better lend themselves to audio-only calls, especially if you’ve been spending a lot of time on video customer calls. Use your best judgment and keep the tips discussed here in mind to ensure you aren’t exhausting yourself and diminishing productivity or performance in the process.

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