As the world watched COVID-19 turn into a pandemic, and Work from Home became mainstay, companies resorted to Zoom to have virtual face-to-face meetings with their employees. In the early days, some companies even used Zoom meetings to take employee attendance before using Zoom for all other work-related meetings.
Zoom fatigue is the term used to describe the exhaustion, anxiety and even stress resulting from overuse of virtual meeting platforms. Be it Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or any other similar platform, the exhaustion felt by its users is real.
While the benefits of video meetings are aplenty, especially when employees work from home, the drawback is that virtual fatigue can negatively affect your employees, which affects your bottom line.
What makes online meetings so tiring?
First, having to stare into a screen, and maintaining a focus on a person’s face, seeing your own self in the video call and expounded by screen freeze, distortion, and such, leads to cognitive overload. An overload of information, going beyond a person’s information processing capacity, simply means decreased productivity.
How do you know if your employees are experiencing Zoom fatigue?
Here are three telltale signs:
- Noticeable exhaustion
If your employee always looks tired and has problems concentrating on the discussions, these are visible cues that the employee is experiencing fatigue. According to a 2021 study by Standford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, the amount of eye contact in virtual meetings causes a lot of cognitive strain as everyone is constantly staring at each other’s face online.
- Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
Forgetfulness is another sign of virtual fatigue. If you notice your employee frequently forgetting to execute a task and also has a hard time concentrating on meetings, this is another sign to watch out for. In one poll conducted by a network of professionals called Blind, 27% said they tried to pay attention but often zoned out while another 26% said they were doing other stuff while waiting for their name to be called.
- Frustration and irritability with colleagues
Another sign that your employees could face virtual fatigue is that they seem more easily irritable. They may display agitation as others discuss work issues and may even look more and more frustrated and annoyed as the meeting progresses. Similarly, if they are involved in back-to-back meetings, they may even exhibit pessimism.
How can you help your employees?
- Introduce corporate wide meeting-free days
A pulse survey conducted by MIT Sloan Review to gauge employees’ stress levels before and after instituting meeting-free days per week showed employees reported improvements in autonomy and cooperation and reduced stress and micromanagement issues. Their analysis was the optimum number of meeting-free days is three, with productivity raised to 74%, increased satisfaction by 65% and 57% in stress reduction. The data also showed that two days per week meetings were crucial to maintain social connections and manage weekly schedules.
- Take breaks in between video calls
Giving employees breaks in between video calls allows them to break away from screen time. This not only helps reduce brain fog but also allows mobility. As virtual meetings can mean sitting for hours in front of their screens, breaks can help employees to get up from their seated positions to ease their eye strain and get that much needed stretch.
- Use other collaborative tools
If a phone call suffices to discuss any work matter, employers should consider this option to help minimise video meetings. Collaborative tools such as document and file sharing tools, project management tools and even chat tools can make better alternatives to group discussions.