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Despite its decade-long presence in the business world, Zoom and “Zoom Fatigue” as a fixture in our daily lives is relatively new. With so many of us stuck at home, isolated from friends and family, Zoom and other virtual platforms such as Slack, have provided a great way to stay connected. If you can’t see the ones you love in person, why not video call? And for businesses, it’s made the transition to working remotely easier. If we can’t collaborate in person, why not have a virtual meeting?

However, how our brains process information, particularly during a conversation, often makes video calls exhausting and disorienting. As Brian Wind, Ph.D. & co-chair of the American Psychological Association tells Health, “When we interact with people face to face, we’re not only listening to their voices and looking at their faces—we’re picking up on social cues, like hand movements, body movements, and even a person’s energy.” With video calls, we hyperfocus on words to make sense of things. And without the usual nonverbal feedback, video conferences become a mentally taxing activity. So if you find yourself needing a nap after a virtual meeting, don’t feel bad-your brain is just overworked. But there are ways to alleviate that stress. Here are six ways to effectively connect during this era of disconnect:

Close That Self View

This seemingly small step can make a big difference. The self view, which is great for double-checking if your breakfast in your teeth, can be immensely distracting during a virtual meeting. Trying to take in your colleagues in their various environments while also being aware of just how awkward your “I have questions” face looks is simply too much data for our brains. In normal social interactions, you are not having to deal with this much visual information. Give your brain one less data point to process.

In addition to closing your self view, consider limiting camera use altogether. Perhaps instead of having a gallery view of everyone’s face at once like the Brady Bunch, adjust settings so only the person speaking is in view. While this does mean you miss nonverbal cues from other participants, given the lag and our tendency to overperform when on camera, those cues are not as useful to us during a virtual meeting. If you are a meeting leader, make camera use optional. You could even have a call-in only meeting periodically to give everyone a break. If you are not a meeting leader, ask fellow participants to weigh in on changing up how you virtually meet (perhaps even during the meeting to get feedback in real-time).

Always Meet With Purpose

It’s easy to fill the calendar with virtual meetings. Just create a link, invite your colleagues, and add it to your ever-growing calendar. However, it is important to ensure you are meeting with purpose, or else it’s a waste of time for everyone involved. The best way to do this is to have a meeting agenda. While this may feel silly or redundant, agendas not only help focus the meeting leader but participants as well. It also gives others the chance to prepare for the meeting ahead of time. Although there are benefits to having more freeform, organic meetings, the video call format tends to create more anxiety than ingenuity without clear parameters.

It also helps with focusing our brain, which is easily distracted during video calls. Agendas give us something to follow, a timeline, and a set of tasks to check off (which can provide just the dopamine boost we need). This sort of clarity is crucial for managing overwhelm for everyone involved. This strategy is even effective when meeting with clients, ensuring that the interaction is as productive as possible. No one wants their time wasted and a well-crafted agenda minimizes that outcome.

The Meeting Honestly Could Be An Email

Given the ease of use and access to video call technology, virtual meetings have become the default communication method. Need to update your team about a project? Zoom meeting. Need to discuss ways to make your next meeting more productive? Zoom meeting. Want to simply connect with your colleagues as a reminder that the outside world exists and we’re all in this together? Zoom meeting.

However, connecting via video is not the only way to stay in communication. Sometimes using a messenger like Microsoft Teams or Slack may be a better alternative. Or of course, the classic email could do the trick. This way you get a break, a written account of what’s been shared, and the ability to communicate more clearly and effectively. A great three-in-one option. If you are an executive, providing alternative communication options can help future virtual meetings be more productive. And if you’re a lowly underling, presenting text communication as a “great three-in-one option” could earn you some bonus points with the boss while getting a well-deserved break.

When Zoom Fatigued, Rest

However, sometimes simply moving the conversation to a different format isn’t enough. A complete break from constant virtual communication maybe the best remedy to “Zoom Fatigue.” Setting designated days for virtual meetings and communications as well as designated days for rest is also crucial for avoiding burnout. And if carving out entire days for breaks is not possible, build in breaks as you work. Put 10-15 minute buffer between meetings and take that time to stretch or even meditate. The key is to give your mind the space to relax and disengage.

Therapist Grace Dowd gives this advice: “Set up a time during the day for a digital detox where you put away phones, computers, and tablets and focus on something else. Trade your e-reader for a paper book or turn your phone on airplane mode for an hour or two. Take some time to be in nature on the weekends. Giving our brains time to reset and focus on non-digital stimulation can help us recharge and feel more mentally prepared to go into our Zoom calls.”

Set Boundaries Whenever Possible

Boundary setting is essential when tackling Zoom fatigue. In the workplace, this can be challenging, especially for non-managerial workers. You don’t want to rock the boat or overstep by suggesting something that upper management may not like. Dump that concern. Boundaries are important and necessary for all workers, not only decreasing stress but increasing productivity. If you don’t believe me (or rather, the powers that doubt this premise), show them this article that not only discusses the benefits of boundaries but how to effectively set them: How To Set Productive Work Boundaries With Your Team.

If your job involves setting meetings with clients, look for opportunities to connect without video calls. For example, if this is a follow-up re: a project in progress, perhaps send a Google Doc or even a pre-recorded video with the update instead of setting an online meeting. Aside from work obligations, it’s important to set boundaries with friends and family as well. While a video chat may seem like the best way to connect with those you love, it can quickly become another exhausting task on your to-do list. Part of this is due to the lack of separation between our various social roles. We now work and learn in the same place we talk with our loved ones. This lack of differentiation that we are used to leads to negative feelings, turning what should be a pleasant interaction into a stressful one. Changing where and how you communicate with friends and family can help re-establish these boundaries and make for less anxiety-ridden interactions.

Add Fun To Virtual Meetings

A great way to ease Zoom fatigue is to add more fun activities to virtual meetings. Remember those silly ice breaker games during school orientation to get a bunch of shy kids to open up? Turns out, it works for adults too. While a general “how is everyone doing?” query isn’t a bad place to start, games help people relax and sets a tone of collaboration. And executing this virtually doesn’t have to be difficult. For example, QuizBreaker is an online trivia platform designed for remote teams that allows you to send curated questions straight to people’s inboxes. You can create a quiz prior to the meeting and discuss results during your virtual chat.

Another way to add fun to virtual meetings is through giveaways and contests. Because let’s be honest, we all love getting stuff, especially free stuff. A few of our top picks include the Tuscany Journal (impressive deboss imprint and great for notetaking), the Chenille Blanket (comfy product for employees and colleagues to cozy up in), the Tahoe Tea & Coffee Ceramic Mug with Wood Lid (for warm drinks to power through the day) and the CA Merlot Red Wine with Custom Label (for relaxing after a busy day). And Choice Premiums offers dropshipping, making it easy to deliver products to remote teams. Care packages are another great option, allowing for the sender to select several specific items for the recipient. If you are interested in creating a custom package, let us know! We can help with everything from branding to product selection.

While Zoom fatigue is definitely real, returning to a time before video was central to our communications is unlikely. Using these tips, however, you can reclaim your sanity and have better more productive virtual meetings. Be willing to test and try different communication strategies until you discover the mix that works best for you and your colleagues. Just because we aren’t together, doesn’t mean we have to be disconnected.

Young white woman facing camera holding coffee cup next to the words: Make 2021 The Year You Are Remembered above a button that says Get Our 2021 Product Guide.

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