Zoom fatigue: How to address the problem


Karen Carter, General Manager at UniServices' National Institute of Health for Health Innovation (NIHI), shares what she's learned about Zoom fatigue (substitute Zoom with teams, skype etc) and how we can address it.

Who else is starting to feel unusually tired at the end of the day/ week?  I know I am, so started to look up Zoom Fatigue and a quick google search leads me to conclude that ‘Zoom Fatigue Is Real!’.  Watch this space, I think we will start to see more data around zoom fatigue the longer we work remotely.

What is Zoom Fatigue?

Unusual tiredness, inability to concentrate in zoom meetings, feeling connected but disconnected to those on the zoom meetings. These are some ‘symptoms’ of zoom fatigue. Do any of these resonate with you?  Are you experiencing any other symptoms that you might attribute to zoom fatigue?

Why are we experiencing Zoom fatigue?

It has been suggested that there is a different quality to our attention when we are online and we are getting used to processing information differently. When we normally interact we gather body language cues. When we interact via zoom, those body language cues are limited. However, when multiple people are on the zoom meeting, we are trying to process cues from multiple people at the same time.  In addition, we are often stimulated or exposed to other images; backgrounds, pets, children etc…  that we would not normally be processing during a meeting.  How many of us are also guilty of multi-tasking and checking emails at the same time as being on a zoom meeting?  When on zoom, not only are we being overstimulated by the audio and visual cues from the meeting, but by emails or other distractions. The brain, put simply, is trying to process large amounts of information and is being over-stimulated.

Add to this, that many people are using zoom to connect with friends and family/ whanau or for social gatherings (zoom drinks or dinners) outside the work environment and you realise that suddenly you are spending a vast amount of your waking time connecting with others via zoom.

How do we address the problem?

  • Before setting up a zoom meeting, ask yourself, do you really need to connect via zoom (with camera) or can you connect in another way. Working remotely has resulted in people feeling pressured (often self-pressured) to be available and visible. Can you achieve the same outcome through an email or quick phone call. How would you have interacted before we were all self-distancing and working from home?
  • Take time between zoom meetings.Apply the same rules as you would for a face to face meeting in the office. If you used to schedule a meeting for 50 minutes to allow yourself time to get set up, focus or simply to move from meeting room to meeting room. Do the same, allow yourself time to get up and walk between meetings. Even if it is only a few laps around your work space.
  • Allow yourself time to plan for and focus on your next meeting rather than rushing from zoom to zoom.
  • Block off time to clear emails or do those other tasks that are distracting you when on zoom so you can give the zoom meetings your full attention.
  • Treat the zoom meeting as you would any face to face meeting: set a clear agenda, stick to time and finish with a summary of action points if applicable. Keep the meeting time reasonable. We can only concentrate intensely for so long. 
  • Some people find speaker view better for meetings. This better simulates a face to face meeting scenario, where you are giving the speaker your full attention rather than being distracted by others in the gallery view.
  • Look after yourself and take time away from the computer and zoom to do things that make you happy and allow you to rest and recharge.