Zoom fatigue is real, and it’s hurting people’s productivity, focus, and, in some cases, even their mental health.
A research study by Stanford professors found that frequent and prolonged video calls drain remote workers and tire them much faster than in-person interactions.
But with remote work and videoconferencing on the rise, do you have a choice? Fortunately, yes.
In this article, I’ll help you understand Zoom fatigue and share proven ways to combat its adverse effects. Then, I’ll show you why asynchronous video communication is an excellent alternative to Zoom and videoconferencing in most cases.
What is Zoom Fatigue?
Zoom fatigue (also called virtual or video fatigue) is the mental exhaustion or burnout you feel at the end of video calls. It’s not a formal diagnosis or a clinically recognized disease. Still, it’s a growing phenomenon among remote workers who feel irritated and less focused due to the constant barrage of long video conference calls.
Zoom fatigue isn’t Zoom specific and happens to people using other video conferencing solutions as well. But it’s called Zoom fatigue or Zoom burnout since Zoom is synonymous with videoconferencing. It’s similar to how we routinely use “Google'' in place of “search” (let’s Google this.)
What’s the reason behind Zoom fatigue? Why would someone feel burned out sitting in their home and just talking to their colleagues over a video call?
There are several explanations for why Zoom fatigue happens.
Some experts believe that the constant pressure of being on camera and putting on an appearance for your colleagues takes its toll. Most people don’t enjoy the feeling of being watched all the time, which happens during video conferencing, where you’re always on camera with multiple team members. Constantly looking at your computer or mobile screen for long hours during video calls is another commonly cited reason.
The jury is still out, and researchers worldwide are trying to figure out the precise reasons that trigger Zoom fatigue.
But as I said at the start, it’s real, and it’s impacting people’s productivity and mental health.
How Many Zoom Meetings Is Too Many?
Videoconferencing isn’t new, but the number of video calls and the time people spend on camera has dramatically increased post-COVID-19.
But, is there a specific duration or number of hours after which people start feeling burned out during video calls?
An eye-opening research study by Virtira seems to have the answer.
Virtira surveyed 1700+ management executives, team leads, and general employees in various industries using Zoom and other video conferencing solutions on a daily basis.
It found that 63% of the participants felt the number and duration of their video meetings had increased significantly since the pandemic. 53% of those respondents said they felt exhausted by this increase.
In addition, the study found that 49% of the participants spent more than 3 hours a day on live video calls and felt burned as the call duration increased. On the contrary, those spending less than three hours on video calls did not feel as burdened.
So we can assume that regularly spending more than three hours a day in videoconferencing can ultimately lead to Zoom fatigue.
The management consultants at MatchPace also back this view and recommend keeping the average combined video call duration under three hours a day.
In addition, they recommend at least a 15 minutes break between calls to allow the participants to walk around and refresh.
Symptoms Of Zoom Fatigue
By now, you probably know whether you have video call fatigue. But if you’re still unsure, look for the following symptoms.
Zoom Fatigue Symptom #1: Dreading The Thought Of Another Call
Feeling anxious before calls or dreading the thought of spending another hour in front of the camera is among the most obvious signs of Zoom fatigue.
You can ignore it if it happens once in a while. But if it’s the norm, you need to take a break because you’re clearly feeling burned out.
Zoom Fatigue Symptom #2: Struggling To Focus During Calls
If you’re finding it increasingly difficult to focus on what your colleagues say during video calls, you probably have video fatigue.
Concentrating on a group video call is difficult because there are multiple faces on your screen, all doing something different. The moment someone moves around, leaves their seat, drinks water, or even smiles, your mind diverts toward their actions.
As a result, you lose focus and can’t fully concentrate on the speaker.
Zoom Fatigue Symptom #3: Keeping Your Camera Turned Off
It’s normal to join a video call with your camera turned off when you’re not appropriately dressed up or not ready to be on camera for any reason.
But if you’ve started avoiding the camera for no reason and feel uncomfortable being on-screen during calls, Zoom fatigue might be one of the reasons.
Zoom Fatigue Symptom #4: Constantly Rescheduling Calls
If you find yourself rescheduling video calls just because you’re feeling anxious and uncomfortable, you’re a classic case of Zoom fatigue.
This often happens to people who spend four to five hours video conferencing every day and just can’t find the strength to hop on another call.
Zoom Fatigue Symptom #5: Getting Aggressive During Calls
Finally, one of the most apparent signs of video fatigue or Zoom burnout is that you feel increasingly irritated and impatient during calls. You just want the participants to get on with the agenda and finish the call as soon as possible.
Why Zoom Meetings Feel More Taxing Than In-Person
We, humans, are social animals, and meeting each other comes naturally to us. So what’s the big deal with Zoom meetings? Why do they feel more taxing?
Firstly, in-house teams engage and socialize through casual chats and random water cooler discussions. These informal interactions help co-workers understand each other and build friendships and connections that improve their productivity and teamwork.
You don’t have such interactions on Zoom, where the calls have agendas, and there’s little room for random chit-chat.
From a scientific perspective, personal communication relies heavily on physical gestures, body language, and facial expressions. But Zoom calls only show faces and that too in unusual sizes, which makes your brains work harder.
You must constantly look at multiple faces to pick up non-verbal gestures and be more expressive to ensure the other person understands your point.
Then, of course, there’s the added pressure of looking good on screen. In normal meetings, you can’t see your face, so your brain focuses on the other person. In Zoom calls, you can see yourself all the time and know that everyone else is also watching you, which is a big distraction for most people.
You’re extra conscious of your on-screen appearance and keep glancing at yourself to make sure you’re looking good. That’s a lot of additional work for your mind.
Scientists call this behavior Mirror Anxiety. It affects both men and women, but researchers say it’s one of the major causes of Zoom fatigue in women.
It ties in with another study that found that being on-camera is mandatory for employees in 60% of corporate Zoom meetings, while 24% of people feel peer-pressured to turn their cameras on even when it’s not required.
Who would enjoy working with such unnecessary pressures?
In short, how we communicate during video calls significantly differs from personal meetings. Our brains aren’t used to it and must work harder to convey and receive messages.
How To Combat Zoom Fatigue
So, we’ve talked about Zoom fatigue and how it’s hurting productivity and mental health. But how do you counter it?
Here are a few tips to combat Zoom fatigue.
Acknowledge The Problem
The first step to solving any problem is accepting that it exists. Zoom fatigue is real, and you need to acknowledge it. If you’re in a leadership position, talk about this problem with your colleagues and make it easier for people suffering from it to come out.
Show people how Zoom fatigue affects performance, and try finding out how much time an average employee in your company spends on video calls every day. Ask your colleagues to share solutions and ways you can minimize the harmful effects of frequent video calling without impacting business results.
If you’re an employee with Zoom burnout, talk to your managers, show them evidence, and persuade them to acknowledge the problem across your company.
Minimize Zoom Calls
Company-wide sessions and weekly departmental video meetings are mandatory in most companies. But there are many other instances where you can avoid video calls and use other communication channels.
For example, you don’t need a Zoom call to get a project's status update. Instead, you can easily do that through your project management tool or Slack chat.
Similarly, most projects or tasks can be assigned through detailed email briefs instead of long and unstructured video calls.
Companies like HSBC and Citi have introduced “Zoom free” days every week where employees are required not to conduct any video calls.
In addition, many companies use project management software and asynchronous communication tools to minimize Zoom calls.
Take Mandatory Breaks During Calls
Back-to-back video calls are tiring and stressful. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid them. However, you can minimize their adverse effects with a simple solution - breaks.
A recent Microsoft study shows a marked difference between the engagement and performance levels of employees who take regular breaks between video calls compared to those who don’t.
The researchers at Microsoft studied the brain activity of the participants and found that breaks helped control their stress levels and allowed them to focus better.
So, if you’re planning a long day of meetings, ensure adequate breaks in-between. If someone from your team is holding a long session, request them to add 10-15 minute breaks every hour.
This will keep you and the other participants more engaged and energized during calls.
Limit The Number Of Participants
Too many participants make meetings ineffective. According to HBR, the optimal number of participants in a meeting is less than eight.
For Zoom calls, I believe this number would be even lower.
Why? Because the more participants, the more faces on your screen. Your brain will have to work harder to avoid distractions and focus on the most important parts of the meeting.
Similarly, more participants mean more tech issues, unnecessary disruptions, useless questions, and even out-of-agenda chit-chat.
All of this increases frustration and makes your meetings less productive.
Take Stand Up Calls
Sitting long hours reduces your energy levels, puts your body in a relaxed mode and reduces your focus. Plus, when you’re relaxed you’re more likely to drift away from the original meeting agenda and have long and useless conversations.
The solution? Take stand-up calls whenever possible.
You can ask all the meeting participants to stand up and take the call on their mobile devices while walking around the room.
Joanna Wiebe, the founder of CopyHackers, says standing up during video calls has improved her energy levels, made her calls more exciting, and helped her and everyone else on the call remain focused.
When your calls are more focused, and on track, they usually end on time as well.
Start With An Agenda
Speaking of staying on track, don’t forget to set an agenda before your Zoom calls. If you’re invited to a call, ask the host to share what it's about. Don’t take a vague answer on this one because calls without an agenda are often long, directionless, and frustrating.
In addition, identify the agenda points where your participation is needed and ask the host if you can leave after that. This way, you’ll be able to contribute without wasting time.
Make On-Camera Appearance Optional
Unless necessary, make on-camera appearances optional in most Zoom calls. This reduces the pressure of live calls and allows the participants to relax. Plus, it minimizes distractions and helps everyone focus on delivering value during calls instead of looking at each other.
If you’re not in a decision-making position, ask the meeting host to join with audio-only. They won’t have a problem with it most of the time.
Stop Worrying About How You Look
You’re not the only one thinking about your looks on video calls. Research shows that most people become more conscious of their appearance while video conferencing.
So, relax and understand that everyone knows we’re going through extraordinary times where the pandemic has changed our work style and forced us to compromise on a lot of things.
It’s ok not to look your best on a video call. Most people rarely do. Instead of worrying about looks, focus on the meeting agenda and try getting things done.
Turn-Off Self View
If you still can’t help looking at yourself during calls, turning off your self-view is the easiest way to reduce the tension. Zoom and most other video-calling solutions have this option.
Hopefully, this would allow you to forget about your looks and engage during meetings with much less pressure.
How Loom Helps Prevent Zoom Fatigue
One of the best ways to prevent Zoom fatigue is to use asynchronous video communication. This is where Loom comes.
Like Zoom, Loom is all about engaging video communication. But Zoom is synchronous, while Loom is an asynchronous communication tool.
That makes a lot of difference.
Instead of aligning everything and going live together, just record a Loom with your face in a corner and say whatever you want.
In addition, Loom opens several possibilities that not only prevent Zoom fatigue but also make your team’s general communication much more engaging and fun.
Let me share a few ways using Loom prevents Zoom fatigue.
Allows You To Create Engaging Content Assets
Loom is not just a communication tool. It’s an excellent content creation platform using which you can create engaging video assets for your company and save countless hours for your team.
For example, companies connect new employees with different departmental representatives for briefings during the onboarding process. In a remote environment, this is done through video conferencing.
You can easily replace this with a single Loom recording that covers all the essential information in detail and becomes a permanent asset that you can use for every onboarding briefing.
Similarly, identify any repetitive meetings or sessions you can replace with a Loom recording, and you’ll save hundreds of hours.
Enables Easy Access Across Time Zones
Sometimes everyone must join a live Zoom call irrespective of their time zones. But for regular project updates, announcements, and several other meeting types, you can simply replace Zoom with a Loom recording that allows everyone to view it in their time zones.
In addition, you can use Loom’s emojis and annotations to make your content more engaging and trim out any unnecessary parts to create a more polished video message.
Allows Employees To Respond Thoughtfully
Live video calls are great for urgent matters. But if you’re looking for detailed and thoughtful responses, use Loom recordings instead.
Why? Because in live calls, employees are under pressure to respond immediately and might not share their best advice.
In comparison, Loom allows them to think about the matter, brainstorm solutions, and respond with much more clarity and confidence.
Reduces The Pressures Of Live Calls
Apart from the pressure of responding immediately, Zoom calls come with various other challenges we’ve discussed earlier in the article. For example, peer pressure, burnout, connectivity issues, etc.
If it’s nothing urgent, Loom helps you avoid all those problems and makes your team communication much more enjoyable.
There’s no pressure on your teammates to be on screen since Loom gives them the option to send a screen recording. Similarly, they’re not worried about their screen background, unplanned interruptions, and any other problems that come with live calls.
As a result, they respond more confidently and look forward to communicating with their teammates instead of running away from interactions.
Do you struggle to concentrate during live video calls and are distracted when anyone from the dozen participants moves around, smiles, or says something?
If so, Loom is the perfect Zoom alternative to help you create distraction-free video messages and express yourself freely.
Loom recordings come in handy in organizations that struggle to control live sessions, or the employees are easily distracted.
Makes Your Zoom Calls More Productive
Loom is an excellent Zoom alternative. But even if you don’t want to replace Zoom, Loom can actually make your Zoom calls much more productive and significantly reduce video call fatigue in your teams.
How? Simply send a Loom recording to all the meeting participants with the necessary information you want everyone to know before they hop on the live call.
This way, everyone comes prepared and knows what to expect from the call. Plus, since you’ve already communicated your part of the message through Loom, you’ll only need the participants to share feedback on the live call.
This results in a more focused and productive Zoom call which ultimately helps reduce your team's Zoom fatigue.
When To Use Loom vs. Zoom
Both Loom and Zoom are excellent video communication tools with unique strengths. Think of them as complementary tools that enhance the overall communication experience together.
However, there are some instances when using one of them makes more sense.
Here are a few examples.
Use Zoom when:
You’re looking for real-time collaboration on an urgent matter where everyone needs to contribute.
Presenting live product demos during which your prospects can ask questions.
Addressing the whole company or a large group of employees.
Delivering live coaching sessions with Q&As.
Presenting project closure reports where the stakeholders can cross-question.
Use Loom when:
You want to communicate important information through a polished and well-structured video message.
Sharing project feedback or sharing your thoughts on a product update.
Providing editorial feedback to your content team.
Sharing important updates with team members in different time zones.
Creating product tutorials and step-by-step guides that can be used as a permanent content asset.
Creating evergreen content for your audience.
Sharing pre-video call briefings with the participants to provide them with the necessary context and allow them to come prepared.
Recording videos for employee onboarding, sales prospecting, customer support issues, etc.
You want your customers to send you quick and engaging video testimonials.
Asking customers to share their success stories.
Are You Ready To Combat Zoom Fatigue?
Video conferencing and remote work are here to stay. But that doesn’t mean you or your team have to suffer from the ill effects of excessive video calling. You can easily combat Zoom fatigue by following the tips I’ve shared in this article. Plus, with Loom, you have an excellent Zoom alternative that not only minimizes live calling but also makes your video communication more engaging and enjoyable.