This has been the year of the video call. From chatting one to one to catching up with a crowd of a friends, it’s been almost impossible to escape the screen. However, people have noticed that while it’s a great way to connect and share when you can’t physically be together, it’s also utterly exhausting. This effect quickly became known as ‘Zoom fatigue’ and has been backed up by scientific research. 

As video calls are unlikely to be going anywhere anytime soon, let’s explore why we feel so exhausted after a full day of video calls and ways we can avoid ‘Zoom fatigue’.

Why are video calls so draining?

  1. The subtleties of communication are a natural, unconscious skill. We take for granted all those tiny perceptions while we’re talking in-person that smooth the way for seamless, flowing conversation, but they’re close to impossible to follow on screen. Our brains are working overtime to help us navigate conversations without these visual cues.
  2. In the same way, we feel the need to make exaggerated gestures and facial expressions like real-life emojis in an attempt to be understood. 
  3. Seeing yourself all the time is like someone following you around with a mirror all day. No wonder it feels like our inner critic is screaming at us like the worst playground bully.
  4. Audio and video lag are common, even if you’re using the very best technology. It’s more difficult for your brain to follow and understand the rhythm of speech with these glitches, so we have to concentrate harder to keep up.
  5. You can’t tell where someone is looking through a screen, making natural eye contact impossible. Instead, there’s an unsettling feeling that everyone in the meeting is staring at you. Sustained gaze, especially when it feels like it’s at close quarters is stressful. 
  6. You must stay still to remain framed in the camera. Movement isn’t just good for your health and circulation, it improves your mental performance. People walking or moving produce more creative solutions and being still means you’re working harder to solve problems.

How to avoid Zoom fatigue

  • Turn off the video feed of yourself on your own screen
  • Turn off your camera whenever possible– at least for a while, just to reset your physical and mental focus
  • Chat over a good old-fashioned voice call so that you can move, walk and talk
  • Take regular breaks away from your screen
  • Move and stretch after each call, and at regular intervals during a call if it’s long. Ideally build in breaks for everyone to leave the screen.
  • Use an external keyboard so there’s more space between you and the screen
  • Reduce the size of the window so the faces of others in the call are smaller and their gaze feels less intense
  • Regularly move your eyes move away from your screen and let them relax wherever possible (for example in webinars or online training) listen in as though it’s an audio presentation, only glancing occasionally at the screen for clarification or detail.