What is Zoom Fatigue and it’s link to our mental health
The pandemic has rendered most of us to be stuck in our homes, devoid of any real face-to-face conversations with people for months, now. Conversing with our colleagues through the tiny box on our screens is now the new norm; hanging out with our colleagues or going out with our friends is now a part of yesteryear. Its been months now, and its no wonder that we are now experiencing what is recently coined as Zoom Fatigue.
Zoom Fatigue refers to the worry, tiredness or burnout experienced due to overuse of virtual communication platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, Google Duo, amongst others. Similar to other new experiences during the time of this pandemic, the Zoom Fatigue is relatively new and intense, but highly prevalent. Some reasons for this fatigue have been discussed below.
Humans communicate even without talking. When we have a face-to-face conversation with people, we not only listen to what they are saying, but we also derive meaning from non-verbal cues (like someone facing away from you or looking at you). Non-verbal cues are vital in communication- they help provide a holistic picture of a conversation- whether what is being conveyed matches with how you feel. A videocall impairs our ability to have a well-rounded conversation, forcing us to pay attention only to words. The frame size in the call does not allow a full view of the person, thus examining body language such as hand gestures becomes impossible. Moreover, we all face some or the other technical difficulties during calls- our audio conks off, the net quality is bad- which allows us to only make out minute facial expressions, thus impeding our ability to communicate with our friends and colleagues. Gianpiero Petriglieri, a psychiatrist, explains this by stating that our brain tries to make up for all the aspects of communication that are missing when compared to normal conversations- and that is tiring (Zimmerman, 2020).
Another reason why we feel like a Zoom call zaps our energy, is because our brain is forcibly taxed more than before. This is especially the reason for fatigue during multi-person screen calls, where there are more than just 2-5 people. All participants show up in tiny little boxes on the screen, challenging he brain’s central vision to decode so many people at once- thus leading to not much of meaningful interpretation taking place, not even of the speaker. Our brain thus multitasks, devoting itself to numerous activities (around us as well as different people on the call), but only paying limited attention to each. We all have tried our hand at multitasking at some point in our lives, we know how tiring it can get after a while. Hence, its no wonder that our brain experiences the same, leading us to feel fatigued.
Virtual communication includes a new element that is not seen in normal day-to-day communication- us seeing our own faces. These are tough times; the situation is bleak and we have no choice but to be at home. Its been long since we have gone out and done what we used to. We can’t differentiate between our home and spaces now, sometimes it almost feels claustrophobic. Most of us feel this way, and then we have to sit in front of a camera and work. We are then faced with our own reflections of how we look for the day, and if it is one of those ‘low’ days, our focus is on (sneakily) fixing up our hair, clothing or makeup rather than on the meeting. Having you look at yourself makes you feel self-conscious, not to mention we have other heads stare at us as well. It’s a tiring ordeal, having to think about you look, if your colleagues are looking and plus the work.
The final cause of zoom fatigue is obvious, the physical body. Virtually working from home means no more going out for a coffee break with colleagues, chatting with co-workers or commuting; which are times which are valuable for de-stressing and to stretch after sitting at the desk for a long time. An aching back, slight migraine and eye-strain due to sitting on one piece of furniture for hours makes us feel achy, cranky and just overall tired.
Since zoom calls are not going anywhere anytime soon, below are few pointers to help reduce zoom fatigue:
- Try not to schedule continuous back-to-back meetings. Give yourself a short break to allow yourself, mainly your brain, to recuperate.
- If you can, try sitting near a window to get enough sunshine. Vitamin D is important for our bones, and thus sitting near a window helps.
- Take a break in between meetings and try to get some fresh air or even a glass of water. Many of us even forget having a glass of water because we are so busy.
- If possible, use the option of hiding yourself on the call, where others can see but you can’t see yourself. As stated above, many of us feel self-conscious when we see our reflections and are unable to focus on the task at hand. Hiding yourself can somewhat facilitate normal communication.
These are uncertain times; taking care of your health- both physically and mentally- takes prominence. Try cutting yourself some slack when things do not right. The world is moving towards a new-normal, taking self-defeating behaviours with you will only be detrimental.
Skylar, J. (2020). Zoom fatigue is taxing the brain: here’s why that happens. National Geographic. Retrieved from: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/coronavirus-zoom-fatigue-is-taxing-the-brain-here-is-why-that-happens/
Zimmerman, K. (2020). Zoom fatigue & the effects on your mental health. The Kim Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.thekimfoundation.org/blog/zoom-fatigue-the-effects-on-your-mental-health/
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