It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and Mental Health Awareness Month in the US. The biggest mental shift most of us went through in the last year was moving to remote work and a Zoom environment. Before March of 2020, most of us had an occasional, cameras-off relationship with the Zoom platform. Suddenly it became our entire connection to the working world, with associated pros and cons. So we felt it only appropriate that this month to talk a little about the phenomenon of Zoom fatigue and how we at Matillion stay engaged and alert when interacting in the new remote reality. We hope the tips that have helped us can help you, too!
When we attend virtual meetings and video calls, we enter a whole new realm that’s not entirely natural. We often must work harder to read nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and emotion. Delays in audio, accidental talking, and over-analysis of tone of voice can add to the challenge. As a result, we’ve all become familiar with the phenomenon of Zoom fatigue.
In-person meetings have a number of different nuances that reduce the level of fatigue we often feel on Zoom. In face-to-face meetings, subtle distractions break the flow of an interaction and result in a lower load on our senses. However, Zoom often exacerbates the small things that barely register in a real conference room. Recent research from Stanford University identifies several things that contribute to Zoom fatigue that probably sound familiar. Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact can be highly intense.
In a normal meeting, people’s gaze will change from speaker to notes or elsewhere. On Zoom, even if you’re not speaking, a wall of faces is still looking at you.
The size of your monitor can amplify this effect. When faces appear too large for comfort our brains see this as an extreme close-up with another human being.
Tips for relief
To lessen the effect of being on close display, try:
- Reducing the size of your Zoom window
- Minimizing your video
- Stepping back from the camera to make yourself appear smaller
Constantly seeing yourself during real-time video chats takes a toll
The picture-in-picture view on Zoom is akin to holding a mirror up to yourself all day long. Many studies have shown that there are negative emotional consequences to seeing yourself in a mirror. People become hyper-aware of themselves and their backgrounds, often to stress-inducing levels.
Tips for relief
To get out of mirror mode, try these things::
- Use the “hide self-view” button by right-clicking on your own photo.
- Use a zoom background to maintain a level of privacy
During video chats, we move around less
In non-video meetings, we move more than we realize. We naturally pace when we talk on the phone, and in-person meetings can often involve some movement about the meeting room. But the camera’s limited field of view inhibits healthy movement, which has been shown to aid in cognitive performance.
Tips for relief
To keep things moving, you could try:
- Standing up for your calls
- Considering the placement of your camera and/or using an external headset to allow you to move around
- Making your zoom meeting a walking call instead
Video chats use up a lot of brainpower
Nonverbal communication is natural and subconsciously interpreted in face-to-face meetings, but more difficult in Zoom. We have to work harder as both a sender and receiver to ensure these cues are understood. Changing a natural occurrence to one involving significant attention adds significant cognitive load, even for quick chats.
Tips for relief
To lighten the cognitive load, try these things:
- Turn off video for certain calls, allowing you to move more freely
- As a meeting leader, assess whether the camera really needs to be on–some meetings don’t require onscreen interaction
Some of our other favorite tips for Zoom and other remote work communications
- Schedule meeting-free time each day–it will give you a break and help you catch up on workload.
- Ensure that you have time between Zoom meetings to stretch your legs
- Give your co-workers space, too. Don’t snag that small slot in someone’s calendar if you can avoid it.
- Pick up the phone! Not all meetings need to be via video, so mix it up
- Since you’re not commuting, use a meditation app (like Headspace) at the start and end of the day to help you transition and cognitively switch on and off for work
- Consider a regular “Hack Day” for the opportunity to work differently or with different people
- Schedule lunch in your calendar to set your own and other people’s expectations
- Turn off notifications so you can be present on a call and not feel forced to multitask
- If possible, check your to-do list for the next day before you sign off for the day so you don’t have things on your mind that evening
- Batch process your tasks–have a slot for checking emails, a slot for deep work, and for other things you can compartmentalize
- If you struggle to switch off at night, many mindfulness apps have a sleep module that can help–it really works!
- Consider your communications carefully to cut down on unnecessary work chatter–for example, do you really need to Reply All to an email when a 1-to-1 communication will suffice?
Learn more about how we work at Matillion
Matillioners are old pros at managing remote digital communications. Look here for more of our favorite tips.
And if you’re interested in joining the team, we are definitely looking for great people to come aboard. Check out our exciting career opportunities.