Zoom meetings (or Teams, or Google meet, yada-yada — pick your video meeting platform) are still a thing, and therefore so is Zoom fatigue.
Our calendars are still laden with meetings — one-on-ones and group meetings both — in which we’re going to have to stare into a camera, tell Jody that she’s on mute. “Jody… Jody… You’re on mute, Jody,” and struggle to stay focused instead of wandering over to our email on the other screen.
Or are we? Are we going to have to do all those things?
We believe, video calls are here to stay. The headache… The fatigue… Those things are optional.
What is Zoom fatigue?
Many of us heard about Zoom fatigue every day there for a while after COVID struck and we all found ourselves suddenly taking part in back-to-back-to-back video calls.
As if meetings weren’t enough of a source of dread before, now we were all finding ourselves fatigued in the extreme by having these video meetings. Many people didn’t know why. They simply started to notice how drained video meetings were leaving them feeling. And while we’re not talking about Zoom fatigue nearly as much as we talked about it for a while there, it’s still happening.
Instead of being a pandemic, Zoom fatigue is now endemic — just like COVID.
It’s not Zoom. Zoom fatigue can get you on any platform. And the good news is, you can leave the fatigue behind on any platform as well.
To be more specific, there’s good news and bad news… The bad news — there’s only some that you can do directly to reduce your own Zoom fatigue. The good news is, there’s a good deal you can do to reduce Zoom fatigue for others, for those with whom you Zoom. (And perhaps you can influence others to do those things for you.)
An End to Zoom Fatigue
Here’s what you can do to be less fatiguing on your video calls:
1) VISUALS MATTER:
- Frame your face and shoulders prominently on the screen. We’re looking to your face for social and contextual cues. If I can see your face, I’ll try to read it. If it’s hard to read because it’s too tiny, I’ll unknowingly tucker myself out.
- Keep your background simple and still. Visuals that are too complex or that are moving are likely to occupy some of my attention and be a low-grade sap on my energy while I try to focus on you.
- Straight-on camera angle. Position your camera so it’s at eye level. Position your video call window on your screen just below your camera. Camera angles (and the angle of your face relative to the camera) can supply confusing misinformation to our brains about our relationship. If you are looking up or down at the camera, I feel above or below you. And I’ve got to (again, unconsciously) correct for that error. Fatiguing.
- Lighting. This is the most important of the visual elements. My brain wants to read your face. If you are poorly lit, I will unconsciously have to work harder. If the lighting angles are odd, I may feel mistrustful without knowing why. Do you want people leaving their conversations with you saying, “I don’t know why… I just don’t trust that person.” Light your face evenly. Gia Goodrich on YouTube has incredibly good guidance on how to accomplish this.
2) AUDIO MATTERS:
- Have as quiet an environment as you can. Fans, conversations, other sounds… These can be distracting in a meeting in person. Online, they can be even worse. Even if you plan to be on mute (see the last tip below) when you do come off mute to say something, the background noise will be all the more jarring to others on the call because of its suddenness.
- Use an external microphone. It doesn’t have to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Almost any external microphone, placed near your mouth, will be FAR better than the microphone that’s built into your laptop. And listening to you (even when it’s easy to understand your words) when the microphone sound quality is bad and your voice sounds tinny, can be remarkably (if subtly) grating to the listener.
3) SO-CALLED BEST PRACTICES:
- Let go of “eye-contact lock.” We’ve been told that eye contact matters in our video calls. And so it does. Even so, we’ve been misled about what kind of eye contact is actually necessary for people to believe you’re present and engaged. Yes. Please make regular and frequent direct eye contact, looking into the camera. That said, you needn’t and shouldn’t constantly stare hard into the camera. It’s weird and difficult for you. Fatiguing. This is the tip that may give YOU the greatest relief you can provide for yourself. Give yourself and those on the call with you permission to look away and then occasionally check back in with the camera/eye-contact. Early in a call, I often say, “I know you’re with me. Please don’t feel like you need to spend 100% of our call looking at the camera to prove to me that I have your attention. I know that gets exhausting. I’ll probably look around as well while we talk — at the wall, at the floor — so I can listen to you better.”
- DON’T everybody mute! This may be the single most important tip in this blog. When everyone is muted, everyone is in a strange, fatiguing, sterile pod. Dear reader, I can hear you already objecting, “But that won’t work because…” Trust me. Try it. We conduct training sessions on Zoom many, many times every month — have been for years — with 40 plus people in them. And we ask everyone to stay off mute for the entirety of a 2, 3, 4 hour training session. Occasionally, someone has to mute for a lawnmower or a barking dog. And, it works to have everyone on mic! It’s great! Speaking to a bunch of people, and hearing nothing in immediate, organic response is exhausting and weird. Laughs, “uhuhs,” other sounds of contemplation… They add richness to our experience. And not being on mute, people feel freer to give tiny short-phrase responses they would probably have kept to themselves. Imagine an end to, “Jody, you’re on mute.” That alone must be making you feel less fatigued.
The Zoom Fatigue Ending Video
Here’s a video in which I tell you the same things I just told you — in a little bit more detail.
Are you through with Zoom fatigue?
Ok. There you go. I spend hours and hours and hours per week on Zoom. I don’t find it fatiguing anymore, and it’s not because I got used to it. It’s because I fixed it.
Will you fix it?
How important is it to you that you not be the cause of Zoom fatigue for others?
It may not be a simple matter of altruism for you to end your fatiguing ways and give your video call companions a better experience.
If you’re in sales, fatiguing your prospects will make them wonder if they really want to work with you — but they won’t know why.
Hey, managers… Fatiguing your team will mean they are less inclined to meet with you and their minds will wander in meetings, making your meetings less productive.
If you have a supervisor, you’ll unconsciously be of greater value to them if you energize rather than deplete them of energy.
Who do you need to share this with? What people will thank you when you show up more energizing for them? Who on your team do you want to have adopt some of these practices? Who will thank you when you help them come across better to those they’re meeting with?
I promise. This is potent stuff. Don’t keep it to yourself.