With no end to the quarantine in sight, we’re collectively looking at the long and isolating months ahead with a mixture of anxiety and trepidation. Add to that the hyper-focused effect that these collaboration tools can have, and you have a perfect storm: Zoom fatigue. With nowhere to go and 18 Zoom calls on your agenda, it’s no wonder people are experiencing a record number of physical fatigue symptoms, including eye strain, sore back and headaches.
If you find ever-constant virtual connection exhausting, we’ve found some tips and tricks to take the edge off and help you disengage.
1. Try Calling Into Meetings
If possible, join a meeting or two via voice call. This way you can move around, clean up, work out (if you can periodically mute yourself) or just sit on your back deck or balcony. Changing your physical environment can do wonders for your mental health.
2. Space Out Your Meetings
Running from meeting to meeting is stressful enough in the workplace, and online it’s even easier to stay tethered to your screen. Emails, instant messages (IMs) and pesky pop-up meetings can fill your day and keep you glued to your laptop. Try breaking up the scheduled meetings so you can have a break and give your mind a rest.
If you’re a parent, you may be able to negotiate an adjusted work schedule with your manager or boss whereby you schedule your meetings for a certain part of the day (i.e. 9-12 or 1-4) so you can dedicate a portion of your day to helping with school work and other parenting obligations.
3. Take a Break
Whether you’re at the office or at the dining room table, it’s important to take a break from time to time to re-energize, refocus and get moving. Set a timer if you have to, but make sure to schedule time to get up, walk around, get some fresh air (safely and with social distancing in mind) and/or do some quick exercises to keep you mentally and physically limber.
4. Mark Your Territory
If you already have a dedicated home office or workspace, congratulations. If you don’t, create one and clearly delineate that space as work-only; no food, no sleeping, just work. When you’re off the clock, leave that space and resist the urge to “check in” until the next day.
5. Party Smart
When we’re forced to work where we live, the balance can shift in overwhelming ways. It’s easy to become anxious when you’re suddenly available 100% of the time.
“With no delineation of work and home, most people I know are on calls all day,” Reema Mitra, a brand strategist said in an interview with One Zero. “On the weekends, I am exhausted from all the calls, so I don’t want to use more screens to see friends.”
It can be discombobulating to socialize online after spending a full workday online. And let’s face it, having virtual drinks with your friends on Houseparty is really you drinking in your living room — alone. While we can appreciate the need for social connectivity during these very lonely times, we’d suggest trying to limit your Zoom happy hours to once a week.
Victoria Turk, author of Kill Reply All: A Modern Guide to Online Etiquette, From Social Media to Work to Love, encourages people to use little white lies to decline the influx of online social events if they have to. “I’ve noticed a few people declining on the basis they have a ‘Zoom clash’ — which may be real or not, but it’s a good excuse if you don’t want to just straight up say you’re not interested,” Turk told One Zero. “With close friends, of course, you should be able to simply say you’re tired or have other plans without it being a big deal.”
The impact of social isolation on mental health has been well-documented, and there’s research to support that seeing someone’s face has a more profound impact on your sense of isolation than just hearing their voice. There are no guidelines to deal with this pandemic in an online universe, but by setting physical and mental boundaries, perhaps some of that precious work/life balance can be restored.