COMPANY ARTICLE

The Real Reason for Zoom Fatigue and How to Prevent It

Michael Peters
Ask most any professional today and he or she will tell you that ‘Zoom fatigue’ is a real condition. Colleagues complain about it every day. And given the current trends in the workplace, it seems to be getting worse.

According to a Harvard Business Review study conducted last week titled How Often Would You Like to Work from Home, more than three quarters of the respondents said at least one day a week, and a full one-third stated all the time. The result of these sentiments is more and more teams spending more and more hours in virtual meetings. And not all of this time is productive.

Zoom Fatigue
Zoom fatigue is the state of weariness associated with overuse of virtual platforms of communication, especially video conferencing. The phrase is derived from the cloud-based platform offered by Zoom Video Communications, Inc. However, the term can refer to fatigue from any video platform such as Microsoft Teams or Google Meet, just to name a few.

Being aware of this relatively new phenomenon is important. But the real questions to ask are, why do virtual meetings cause fatigue, and how can they be enhanced to actually improve productivity.

The Apparent Reason
Today alone, more than 300 million people will participate in a video conferencing call. And that’s just on Zoom. The sheer number of hours spent in front of a computer screen associated with these Zoom calls is enough to cause the most motivated individuals to become worn out. There is also another aspect team members point to when asked why they feel less productive on video conference calls. The lack of in-person contact and inability to recognize shared emotions and subtle nuances prevent team members from actively engaging in discussions. This, in turn, leads to a lack of attention and even boredom. Obviously, not the ideal scenario for effective team decision making.

These circumstances, along with having to focus more intently on conversations in order to absorb information, present compelling reasons for why team members experience Zoom fatigue today. Even so, perhaps there is an even more obvious factor.   

The Real Reason
Dr. Amanda Nimon-Peters of Hult International Business School and author of Working With Influence purports that while society has advanced to the point where remote meetings are commonplace, our brains have failed to keep up the pace. “Virtual meetings are exhausting and stressful when we naively treat them as the equivalent of live meetings,” proclaims Dr.Nimon-Peters. “The simulated distance between video conference participants would normally be reserved for people we know well,” she also claims, “so we experience subconscious stress because of perceived proximity.”

What this means is that the real reason why we experience Zoom fatigue is because team leaders attempt to conduct virtual meetings as they would a meeting in the conference room.

The necessities associated with in-person meetings can actually zap the productivity of virtual meetings. We, as social creatures, have a desire to immediately evaluate our surroundings and size up fellow members of our species when we come together in a group. This vestige of evolution enables us to feel safe and to know our status within the group. With video conferencing, however, the typical rituals of in-person meetings are not only not necessary; they can also contribute to Zoom fatigue.

When surrounded by the comforts of a personal setting, virtual meeting participants do not need to go through routines such as sharing what’s on their mind, how they’re feeling, or what they want to get from the meeting in order to feel secure and engaged. Team leaders should realize the one-on-one experience with the computer screen naturally facilitates much more focused attention to the matters at hand. In addition, with the proliferation of artificial intelligence, meeting hosts can utilize productivity tools to decrease the duration of meetings and quickly move to pertinent decisions.  

Fatigue No More
In addition to understanding that teams need to move as quickly as possible to decision making, team leaders should take advantage of meeting productivity applications to mitigate video conferencing fatigue. Today’s AI-based platforms dramatically improve the efficiency of collaborative deliberation. Meetings take less time. And less effort is required to reach a consensus.

One such platform, Reelay.com, not only relieves the stress associated with managing meeting overhead such as preparation, note taking, and follow-up; it can also alleviate Zoom fatigue by letting participants know they will receive robust post-meeting assets featuring an autonomously generated summary, highlights, and searchable transcripts.

Dr. Nimon-Peters punctuated the benefits of reducing the length of virtual meetings by pointing out that successful online teams tend to communicate in bursts, not in conference-length calls. “Participants must also prepare carefully in advance,” exclaimed Nimon-Peters, “with the specific goal of making their time together effective and engaging.” Productivity platforms such as Reelay enable participates to focus on effective preparation and not worry about administrative tasks. This, in turn, contributes to less stress and less Zoom fatigue.

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