Zoom Fatigue: 7 Ways to Help Employees Avoid It

When companies first started sending employees home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, using Zoom for calls became something of a fad. Whether your business was already using Zoom or not, chances are you’ve “jumped on Zoom” to hash out project issues or just get a face-to-face look at your coworkers at some point since the pandemic began. But overuse of Zoom and similar platforms is leading to a phenomenon called Zoom fatigue—and it could be negatively impacting your employees and your bottom line.

 

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What is Zoom fatigue?

Zoom fatigue is burnout or tiredness associated with overuse of video conferencing apps. It can present itself in a number of ways. People might simply be more annoyed than normal at having to take video calls—or dread them to the point that it becomes a distraction. They might experience tiredness after calls or throughout the business day or have trouble focusing on their work or the topic of a specific call.

 

Scientists don’t really understand exactly what causes Zoom fatigue. Theories on the causes of Zoom fatigue have included the disconnection between on-screen content and audio content, increases in multitasking and the general association of video calls with “pandemic new normal”.

 

5 negative consequences of overdoing business video calls

Whatever the reasons for Zoom fatigue, it can have negative consequences on your business. Here are just some of the ill effects you and your employees might experience if you’re overdoing Zoom business calls.

  1. Low employee morale. Employee morale might begin to suffer, and people may not actually know what the reason is. They might chalk it up to the general state of the world, especially when you’re using Zoom and video conferencing more during stay-at-home situations such as a pandemic. And while other factors can certainly impact employee morale, you might find that addressing how much Zooming is going on improves matters even in the face of other difficulties.
  2. Poorer communication. One of the reasons teams turn to Zoom and video conferencing is that they believe face-to-face interaction, even digitally, enhances communication. And while it’s true that video conferencing can help get the message across faster and more accurately than email or chat, if you’re overdoing Zoom, you might be losing this benefit. In a 2020 poll about Zoom and video conference meetings, 27% of people said they tried to pay attention but often zoned out during such calls, and only 20% said they actively listened and engaged with calls.
  3. Lack of focus in general. Part of the reason for lack of engagement on video calls is that people aren’t focused on them. Whether they’re at a desk in the office, at home or in a coffee shop, lots of things are drawing their attention. And if exterior distractions weren’t enough, around one in four people handle other tasks during video conferences and phone calls while listening for their name to know if they need to chime in. If you’re scheduling so many Zoom meetings that it’s eating into other productivity time, employees and business partners may feel like they have no other option.
  4. Resentment on time drains. Employees might begin to resent the drain on their time, especially if Zoom meetings are scheduled for social purposes or outside of business hours. 
  5. Increased error rates. All of this—the lack of focus, poor communication and decreased morale—can lead to increased error rates in employee work. And that can eventually have an impact on your customers and your bottom line.

7 tips to help employees avoid Zoom fatigue

Should you throw out tools such as Zoom or other video conferencing options? No, because there are times when a face-to-face meeting truly is the best way to handle something, and if all your employees aren’t in one location, this technology is a great help. But you can take some steps—and encourage your employees to do the same—to reduce the negative impact of Zoom meetings on the workplace and your team members.

 

1. Limit the number of unnecessary Zoom meetings

It’s an unfortunate truth of the business world that meetings tend to take over more productive tasks. According to a Korn Ferry survey, more than 65% of workers blame an abundance of meetings for not being able to complete their work in the best way possible.

 

Before you or your team answers a concern, question or need with “let’s hop on Zoom,” make sure that you really need to get together “face-to-face.” If an answer is simple or you’re already having a meeting with the same people tomorrow and the matter isn’t urgent, you might forgo the Zoom call today.

 

Ask everyone on your team to consider whether video calls are necessary before scheduling them. Then ask them to individually consider whether they’re needed on calls they’re invited to. If you’re invited to a call out of courtesy so you can “be in the know” about something, you might instead ask someone to send you a recap of the meeting and what was decided.

 

2. Alternate communication methods

Leveraging other communication methods appropriately can help reduce Zoom fatigue. Email, project management software and chat options such as Slack are all good tools for staying connected when you’re not in the same office—and even when you are.

 

Encourage employees to use the communication method that’s most appropriate for the task at hand instead of defaulting to video conferencing for everything.

 

3. Support transition time between meetings

One reason some employees might suffer from Zoom fatigue is that they feel like it never stops and they can’t catch a breath.

 

Staff might roll from one video conference to another with little time in between to handle their own work or even attend to personal matters such as using the restroom or grabbing a bite to eat. They’re also unable to process and reset from the information on one Zoom call before they launch into another, and that can lead to confusion, forgetting important information or errors.

 

Create and support a policy that allows staff time to transition between meetings. At minimum, encourage staff to schedule meetings so they have at least 5 minutes between Zoom business calls. If you can encourage a policy that puts a full 30 minutes between calls, that’s even better, because it gives staff a chance to take a lunch break if needed or get some work done related to the call they just had.

 

4. Make social and team-building calls optional

Many leaders used Zoom in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to create a positive team environment and ensure staff had socialization opportunities. Happy Hour Zoom calls became popular, for example, with teams gathering virtually at the end of the day just to chat or to share challenges and wins from the day.

 

While these social and team-building calls may provide some positive benefits, they could also contribute to Zoom fatigue. Take a realistic look at how many calls you’ve scheduled: Are people required or encouraged to meet virtually every day or more than once a week? That’s potentially more social time than employees might have spent in an actual office setting!

 

Cut down on social calls to make them more meaningful. And make it clear that many of these calls are optional and that you understand staff has family and other obligations to attend to that might keep them from certain calls.

 

5. Encourage employees not to multitask during calls

Ask employees to remain focused on the task at hand when they’re part of a Zoom call. Multitasking is a misnomer, because when you do two things at once, you’re really only switching between two tasks—not fully accomplishing both simultaneously.

 

That means people who are handling other work while on a Zoom call are not fully present on the call. If you don’t need someone’s full attention on the call, do you actually need them on the call at all? When you consider Zoom call guest lists more appropriately, you’re able to reduce Zoom fatigue by including only the people who actually need to pay attention. And then, you can request that they do so.

 

6. Request employees use simple backgrounds when possible

One theory for why Zoom calls are so fatiguing is that everyone shows up on screen and that could mean dozens of different backgrounds. The visual stimuli can be difficult to take in and distracting. Reduce this type of issue by asking employees to use simple backgrounds when possible. They might position themselves in front of a curtain or a fairly blank wall, for example.

 

7. Don’t default to video on all calls

Finally, just because you’re using a service that supports video during calls doesn’t mean you have to default to it every time. The old fashioned phone call can still accomplish a great deal, even if you’re connecting via the computer. You can use Zoom to listen in on a call and provide audio feedback.

 

Ask employees to turn off the default settings in video conferencing software so that they don’t use video every time they dial in. You can define in individuals meeting requests whether or not video is required for a call—and then only do so when video brings added value to the communication at hand. That might include virtual interviews, planning meetings that involve sharing screens and announcement meetings where you want to see people’s reactions to news.

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