Virtual learning and remote work have skyrocketed due to the ongoing pandemic.
Suddenly everyone is scheduling remote meetings, hopping on quick calls, and completing education requirements online.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Zoom calls jumped astronomically, increasing from 10 million to 300 million each day. Microsoft Teams, a comparable platform, saw similar surges, jumping from 31 to 75 million daily calls.
The new normal has led to a new turn of phrase: Zoom fatigue. It refers to the experience of feeling tired, overwhelmed, anxious, or generally drained by frequent calls and online meetings, and we're all feeling it. The term takes its name from Zoom, but it can occur on any video-conferencing platform after enough regular use.
But you can adapt to these conditions by implementing practices that keep you alert, attentive, and well-rested. If Zoom fatigue sounds familiar to you, check out our tips for overcoming it below.
It might be tempting to do several things at once during Zoom meetings, but you probably aren't as good at multitasking as you think.
Multitasking reduces performance by 40% in most cases.
After a decade of research, Stanford psychologists discovered that multitasking not only affects memory, but it also makes performing simple tasks harder and more taxing. They identified engaging multiple types of media simultaneously as one of the main contributing factors.
Another study conducted by the Association for Psychological Science found that effective or productive multitasking is a myth. Their results showed that multitasking actually reduces performance by a whopping 40%, in most cases.
Multitasking can be hard to resist, especially during busy days with multiple calls or meetings, but there is a reason why focusing on the task at hand is one of the top tips for online learning. Removing distractions will have you more present and effective and less fatigued.
Online learning can make it difficult to break your day into manageable segments. Back-to-back Zoom meetings and other consecutive tasks can contribute to fatigue and exhaustion.
Before the recent shift to remote learning, commuting to attend meetings or classes in person created natural and necessary breaks in the day. Replicating those breaks in your online environment can help you avoid days that feel like one long, unvaried task.
How you do this will depend on whether you're working in a synchronous or asynchronous format. Asynchronous work gives you more freedom to work breaks into your day, but even synchronous meetings can be scheduled with intention. If you can, try to plan short breaks in between meetings and classes. Stand up, stretch your legs, rest your eyes, or even take a short walk, if you're able.
Turn Off Self-view
Regular Zoom use can create interesting habits, such as constantly staring at yourself on screen. Knowing that your video is broadcast to others can heighten your awareness of being seen, and that awareness can induce anxiety and make it difficult to focus. It can also be exhausting.
It's important to make sure your appearance and background look professional, but you don't need to go overboard. Andrew Franklin, a cyberpsychologist at Norfolk State University, calls this phenomenon the "imaginary audience." He says that knowing we are viewable on Zoom can lead us to assume that everyone is paying close attention to every move we make.
This isn't really true, of course: Other participants are probably thinking the same thing about their self-views! To help reduce your anxiety, turn off your self-view. You'll have an easier time focusing on your work.
Use the 20-20-20 Rule for Your Eyes
Zoom calls and other online learning components that require computer use can lead to increased eye strain — as can any screen-based device. Because the rigors of online learning often mean more screen time, it's important to make sure your eyes get the rest they need.
For every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away.
If you find yourself suffering from tired eyes, try the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away. Developed by an optometrist in California, this practice can help relax the eye muscles. Blue light reduction tools can also help protect your vision and contribute to healthy sleep habits.
Maybe you've heard the joke before: "This meeting could have been an email." It's a funny commentary on office culture, but it has taken on new meaning in light of the pandemic and recent shift to remote work. The length of our meetings is not an indicator of their success or effectiveness.
Nobody enjoys overly long meetings even in person, and lengthy virtual meetings can be tiring and frustrating. The shift to remote learning and virtual work makes it easier to schedule even more calls than before.
Instead, keep meetings short and to-the-point if you can, and consider using a different mode of communication whenever possible. Use that extra time to take a much needed break instead.
Send an Agenda if You're the Meeting Host
If you're hosting a meeting — like leading a group project, for example — make sure you're well-prepared. Taking an extra few minutes to make an agenda in advance can help the session flow efficiently and save a lot of time in the long run. It is also a good professional habit that shows that you respect your peers' time and effort.
Once you've made an agenda, be sure to send it out to participants before the scheduled call. This will help your peers prepare and keep them engaged. Having clear expectations with specific points and time limits will prevent your meeting from going over.
Online learning and remote work aren't going anywhere anytime soon — and neither is Zoom fatigue. Addressing this new challenge head-on will keep you engaged and better able to take advantage of the benefits of online education.
Header Image Credits: James Woodson, Luis Alvarez | Getty Images; Pixabay; Wikimedia Commons