For many of us who are still working we are waking up to a calendar filled with Zoom meetings. Not only are we packing in more Zoom meetings than we probably would in a normal office setting, but it has made us all fatigued. Even Google Searches are up on this phenomenon. Why are Zoom meetings so exhausting? Shouldn’t it be less of an effort than in person meeting? Not necessarily.
We are already exhausted from the upheaval in our lives from the pandemic and while connecting over video chat seems like a way to relieve the isolating aspect of working from home there’s actually a disconnect happening. In an interview with BBC, Gianpiero Petriglieri explained that being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat. “Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” Petriglieri stated.
In a face to face meeting we are able to read the room and then adjust our own behaviors accordingly. So you can imagine our brains are operating on overload trying to figure out how to read 50+ “virtual rooms” at the same time while figuring out whether to stare into the persons eyes or their baby succulent in the top left corner of the screen.
An initially scheduled 30 minute Zoom meeting can turn into an hour + meeting because of things such as poor wifi, frozen screens and software crashes. In the beginning of quarantine, Zoom and many other conferencing platforms were actually crashing several times a day. Zoom even has a status page on their site to keep people updated on outages and errors occurring. Many are also experiencing lags on their own devices as this might be the first time working this much from a personal device. If you are overworking your laptop or computer it may be time for an upgrade or an external hard drive. Experiencing technical errors and not knowing how to fix it can distract us even more from the agenda at hand while adding another layer of stress.
Since it’s a virtual meeting you don’t have to get ready, right? Turns out you actually do- at least for women. Working from home gives us the green light to not wear makeup, throw our hair up in a messy bun and stay in our pajamas all day. We very quickly found out that you can’t getaway with the at home quarantine look and we have to get ready at least from the waist up. Staring at yourself into a camera while knowing several other people staring at you tends to add more pressure on focusing on your appearance rather than the meeting. BBC also interviewed workplace and wellbeing expert, Marissa Shuffler, on the pressures of being on camera. “When you’re on a video conference, you know everybody’s looking at you; you are on stage, so there comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform. Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful,” explained Shuffler.
Keeping up appearances is the last thing you want to think about while you are stuck at home especially for working moms who now have to homeschool, take care of the house and keep up with their 9 to 5 work schedule. Not mention you also have to become an interior designer over night to set up your aesthetically pleasing Zoom background. Design expert, Amanda Lauren, offers a few hacks to getting an appealing Zoom background. “The easiest way to have a good Zoom background is to buy a room divider or Shoji screen and angle your camera, so it’s the only thing that can be seen. It’s an instant way to hide any messes. But, if you don’t have room for more furniture, consider creating an accent wall with peel and stick wallpaper like Tempaper, which is a great afternoon project to pass the time when you aren’t working,” Lauren shared.
Our homes have now become our work spaces and our work spaces our homes. Zoom has blurred that balance even more because we are using the platform for work and social purposes. Once you are done with work Zoom’s you have to get ready for friends and family Zoom’s. While virtually connecting with friends and family is a great thing, it can be overwhelming after a full work day of doing so. Ask yourself the question, “could this Zoom meeting have been an email?” If the answer is yes try to suggest communicating over email or even just a regular phone call so you don’t have to worry about what you or background setting look like. Since larger team meetings may be harder to get out of, try turning off your video and audio if you are feeling fatigued. Keeping Zoom’s for more cherished times like birthdays or friendly happy hours when possible should help alleviate the negative connotation [and fatigue] that we have developed towards Zoom.