Do days seem to be more draining now than before remote work and distance learning became commonplace? If you feel this way, you’re not alone. In fact, the vast majority of people working remotely would agree that their energy levels are dropping by the day. The problem is that this sluggishness is creeping up on everyone despite the absence of rush-hour commutes, in-person meetings, and random drop-ins by colleagues to discuss another small project to put on your plate. So why is everyone so tired now, and what can we do to prevent it?
Much of what makes us tired can be attributed to the unedited sound of digitally transferred voices during video calls. A standard microphone (whether a laptop’s built-in mic or one attached to a set of headphones) transforms voices, which is why you can spend hours upon hours listening to music and podcasts but feel exhausted after a single video call. Raw sound transferred over the internet is taxing on our ears, and unless everyone starts using professional-grade equipment it will remain an issue we just have to deal with.
Additionally, much more focus is required during video calls in order to absorb information. Physical gestures, posture, and even a sense of ritualism are all lost when in-person meetings disappear. Without the ability to read body language and non-verbal clues, all attention shifts to the words themselves, making sure you hear and understand everything the second it’s said, and maintaining constant eye contact for the duration of the call. That, combined with the physical strain of listening to unedited audio, is why remote learning and remote working days seem so much more exhausting than a traditional work day.
Now the question is how to combat Zoom fatigue.
One of the best ways to prevent digital exhaustion is by simply stepping away from your computer for a few minutes. Short breaks are a normal part of work and school days, so why should virtual days be any different? Walk around your house or get outside (safely) for 10 minutes every few hours. A quick reprieve from your screen will do wonders for your energy levels.
For the reasons outlined above, it’s important that you give as much of your attention as possible to the video call while you’re on it. It’s tempting to multitask while on a video call, especially if you don’t need to speak at any point. However, this is often counter-productive. The amount of focus required for video calls means that sharing your attention with another task will harm both the quality of that secondary task and reduce the amount of information you retain from the call. It’s a mistake to think of it as “splitting” energy between activities, as that implies you’d be using the same amount of focus whether you’re only on a call or multitasking; instead, you’d actually be multiplying you energy output, depleting what little reserves you may have left at an exponential rate. If it’s not something that needs to be done immediately, wait until after your call to send that email or continue work on your memo.
Also be sure to limit the number of virtual meetings per day, if possible, and try to go no longer than 50 minutes at any one time. This will ensure that you have adequate time between calls to take care of other tasks or get up to address other issues at home. Going through a full day of back to back video calls is a quick way to ensure you’ll be exhausted for remainder of the week, and even just a few hours of nonstop calls will drain your energy for rest of the day.
Sometimes it’s unavoidable to spend all day on calls, but if you follow these tips you’ll be able to reduce the impact Zoom fatigue has on your days. And with remote working and distance learning looking like permanent fixtures at some level for the foreseeable future, every little bit will help.