With the start of the new year just around the corner, it’s important to reflect…
As we move on from 2020, the year that kept on giving, isolation persists in many places. Along with the lockdowns comes a steady stream of challenges. With weeks turning into months soon turning to a full year for many, one issue that many of us never considered is a phenomenon known as Zoom Fatigue or Zoom Gloom.
Know What You’re Dealing With
Zoom Fatigue is exactly what it sounds like. Video conferencing brings many advantages over typical office meetings, but it demands everyone learn new tricks. This 2008 journal article makes one thing very clear; face-to-face video conferences may appear to share similarities with in-person meetings, but the additional cognitive labor it demands makes them an entirely different animal. Have you ever struggled to maintain the illusion of eye contact, attempting to look at the person speaking while keeping your eyes on your camera? Maybe that tiny delay before someone acknowledges you has you convinced they could be ignoring you? All these things and more add up to create increasingly stressful moments that many of us were not prepared to deal with.
Outside of your meeting time slot and your mental pregame, it’s important to take care of yourself and maintain a work-life balance. This can be especially challenging when working from home, as burnout is more likely to present itself with our work and home lives melding together. Burnout is not a new phenomenon by any means, however what is new for many of us is working and living in the same spot. This can result in feeling the need to be “always on” and putting your best face forward. This is not an easy time for any of us, but when we join a video call the social requirement to plaster on a cheery demeanor and pretend all is well is common.
We know Zoom Fatigue is making life harder for us, how do we fight back? Start by preparing yourself before your meetings. Many find the practice of meditation or mindfulness a great way to clear the mind and reduce stress. To do this before your meetings, do things that place you in the moment, no matter how simple they may seem. Moisturize your hands, massage your temples, or simply look around your desk naming what you see out loud. If you have some time before your meeting, consider taking a short break for a walk, or some light stretching if not. What’s important is finding that time for yourself and placing yourself in the now.
Take into consideration what you’re missing out on in comparison to in-person meetings. For many of us, going to a meeting meant going on a short walk, perhaps chatting with a coworker, or peeking at our phone before sitting down for the discussion. This isn’t the case of course with virtual conferences, so make sure you take those moments to disconnect. Get up and walk around a bit, find out what Twitter is ranting about today, or if possible give your pet a brief snuggle before sitting down for your meeting. If you’re the one scheduling the meeting, ask yourself “could this be a phone call or an email?” Sometimes we can find ourselves in an unintended habit and make video conferencing the norm, but it’s important to stop and consider when and where you can limit video meetings to save those involved some of the aforementioned additional mental strain.
The Big Steps
Larger steps can also be taken to reduce work from home burnout and Zoom Fatigue. Try to ensure a reasonable sleep schedule for yourself. Use candles or calming music if you find it helpful, but an easier step for many is forcing yourself to put up your phone at least half an hour before bed. If that’s a step too far for you at first, many smartphones have blue light filters in their settings that can reduce eye strain when using your phone in a dark room. Maintaining a healthy diet is also important. Working from the couch isn’t doing our diets any favors, so make sure you schedule a consistent time for lunch to avoid snacking, as you’re more likely to choose healthier options when you have a set mealtime. If you’re a natural snacker, buy some healthier snacks so you will make better choices when you browse the cupboard throughout the day.
One of the most important things you can do is become your best advocate. Talk to your boss, if possible with regular, brief meetings, and be sure to convey what it is that you need to prevent burnout. Whether a more flexible schedule is needed or if establishing some additional boundaries could help, working during the pandemic may require some extra help, and communicating with your boss about your situation is a great place to start.