Many parents and staff members have reached out to me about feeling extra tired, and practically exhausted after a day of online learning and virtual meetings. I had been feeling a similar way myself, so I decided to do some research on the topic. Keep reading for some facts and helpful hints I picked up during my research.
You’re probably making use of video chat platforms like Zoom, Meet, or FaceTime to communicate with teachers, classmates, and other specialists. Video calls are a great way to maintain connections and get your work done during the shutdown, but they can be taxing on the brain. Since COVID-19, increasing numbers of people are reporting “Zoom Fatigue”—a feeling of exhaustion, anxiety, or worry associated with too many video calls.
What might be causing this feeling?
- Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat - Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. Our minds are together when our bodies feel we're not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally (Petriglieri 2020).
- Silence is another challenge - Silence creates a natural rhythm in a real-life conversation. However, when it happens in a video call, you may become anxious about the technology. It also makes people frustrated/uncomfortable when others have video/voice connection issues. One 2014 study by German academics showed that delays on phone or conferencing systems shaped our views of people negatively: even delays of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the responder as less friendly or focused (Petriglieri 2020).
- Our current lockdown/quarantine situation - Most of our social roles happen in different places. Kids go to school, adults go to work. We socialize in those environments, and several outside of school as well. What happens when all of your opportunities for a variety of social environments turn into one, online virtual meeting option? You feel a bit confused. Adults, imagine you go to one restaurant and you talk to your parents, meet with your doctor, and go on a date with someone, all within a few hours. That would seem pretty ridiculous right? Perhaps, you would be ready to leave that spot after the first or second meeting (Petriglieri 2020).
Here are a few simple tips to help you combat Zoom fatigue:
- Experts suggest limiting video calls to those that are necessary. Video calls don’t need to be the default for every communication. Try using them only when needed. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, and if you think you’re experiencing Zoom fatigue, ask if you can call or message someone rather than chatting over video. They may be relieved you asked! Turning on the camera should be optional and in general there should be more understanding that cameras do not always have to be on throughout each meeting. Having your screen off to the side, instead of straight ahead, could also help your concentration, particularly in group meetings (Hickman 2020).
- Reduce Onscreen Distractions. There’s a lot happening on screen, especially if you’re on a group call, so try to reduce distractions as much as possible. Turn off notifications, use a neutral background, and try changing your settings so you can’t see your own face on the screen. Consider choosing “speaker view” in Zoom so that the one person who is speaking has your attention and the others are more off to the side. This seems to be more like being in a classroom where we’re aware of everyone there, but we direct our attention primarily to whoever is speaking. Tracking an array of 24 (or more) faces on the screen can be quite a challenge! Reducing onscreen distractions will allow your brain to focus on what it needs to at the time (Hickman 2020).
- Take time during meetings to catch up before diving into business. Spend some time to actually check into people's wellbeing. It’s a way to reconnect us with the world, and to maintain trust and reduce fatigue and concern (Hickman 2020).
- Resist the urge to multitask. I myself find it very difficult to avoid multitasking while in a virtual group meeting! I try to resist the urge to refresh my email, send a reply, etc. I can imagine students are facing something similar. They have the option of messaging friends, completing other work, or a number of other distrating options located right on their desktop... not to mention all the fun options at home that may seem more interesting than focusing on the current assignment (Hickman 2020). I have found some success with multitasking while snacking and meeting :)
- Building transition periods in between video meetings can also help refresh us. Try stretching, having a drink or doing a bit of exercise, experts say. Sitting still for an extended period of time while you take in information can be exhausting. If your focus starts to wander, use a strategy to help you regain focus. Personally, my strategies are getting a drink of water, going outside for 3-5 deep breaths, and building movement into my daily schedule. You could ask your teacher if you can stand up and stretch for a minute or two. Try to avoid scheduling back to back meetings when possible. Give your brain a chance to “switch gears” between meetings (Hickman 2020).
Video calls are a great tool for working from home. Although Zoom fatigue is a reality, by understanding it and following a few basic steps, you can make technology work for you during online learning.
Check out these two articles for more information on "Zoom Fatigue"