Minimizing Zoom Fatigue

Zoom meeting with coffee mug

Zoom fatigue is real. All of us – students, faculty, and staff – have spent the past year learning, teaching, meeting, and socializing on Zoom and other video platforms. And many of us have probably experienced the feelings of exhaustion, tension, and grumpiness as well as the headaches, eye strain, and stiff necks that come with hours on Zoom.

Why are we experiencing this mental and physical exhaustion? Behavioral scientists point out that many aspects of Zoom interactions make them unnatural. Humans are social beings and, since birth (literally), we have been picking up on and making sense of social cues in live interactions. Now we are spending hours looking at faces without bodies, engaging in prolonged eye contact or mistiming eye contact entirely, staring at ourselves while we talk, and trying to coordinate conversations when both verbal and nonverbal cues are distorted or delayed. No wonder we are exhausted!

Despite these problems, Zoom and other video platforms are still part of our daily lives and are likely to become just another way of interacting in the future. Below are some tips for minimizing the negative effects of Zoom so you can get the most out of your academic and social experiences during the pandemic and long after.

Use the time between classes and meetings wisely- take a break from your screen.

  • When classes are in-person, you usually have to walk from one class to the next. Treat the time between your Zoom classes similarly.
  • Do not jump from your Zoom class to something else on your computer or phone; instead, stand up, stretch, take a quick walk, look out the window.

Hide yourself to avoid staring at yourself.

  • One way to make Zoom interactions more like in-person interactions is to remove the temptation to look at yourself.

  • When you enter a Zoom room for class or for a meeting, turn your video on and check to make sure the video quality is OK. Then hide yourself from your view.

  • How do I hide myself? Right-click on your video to display the menu options. Click on “Hide Self View.” You will no longer see yourself, but your video is still viewable to everyone else.

Focus on the speaker by using “Speaker View.”

  • If you are in a class using a lecture format or in a meeting or workshop where one person is presenting, use Speaker View. Speaker View more closely mimics where your attention would be focused in person – on the speaker and the presentation slides and not on everyone else in the room.

  • Speaker View also minimizes the added visual stimulation that comes with seeing everyone’s close-up faces and unique backgrounds. That extra visual stimulation is both distracting and draining.

  • If the format switches to discussion, then switch to Gallery View.

Minimize other distractions on your computer by closing other windows and programs.

  • You are already fatigued from using Zoom, so avoid exhausting yourself further by attempting to multitask.

  • Although we all like to think we are capable of – and even good at – multitasking, we are not. We can actually attend to only one thing at a time, so we are not multitasking, we are instead rapidly shifting our attention between tasks and that is mentally taxing.

  • Closing other windows and programs also reduces additional visual stimulation, which is another factor contributing to feelings of exhaustion.

Take notes using pen and paper.

  • Writing notes by hand rather than typing them provides a natural opportunity to look away from the computer. Looking at your notebook gives your eyes a break and putting pen to paper encourages you to shift your posture.

  • Added bonus: Research suggests, for those who are able to do so, that we learn better when we write notes by hand. Because we cannot write as fast as we can type, handwriting forces us to transcribe less and interpret more.

Accordion style