Zoom. It’s the popular meeting place for people working remotely (i.e., not in an office or shared workplace), and it could also apply to other types of software like One Team, GoToMeeting, FaceTime, BlueJeans, Slack, or Houseparty for meetings, attending classes or even church. But it can be exhausting in an entirely different way from regular meetings, and “Zoom fatigue,” the exhaustion caused by constant video calls, is now a real ailment. 

It’s more difficult than meeting face-to-face because people can’t read their bosses’ and coworkers’ non-verbal clues like tone and body language. The speakers often feel their voices are disappearing in a black hole since everyone else is probably (or hopefully) on “mute,” and the delay in responding to the speaker’s questions often feels unfriendly and can lead to negative perceptions. 

If the meetings include video, it presents an added stressor while the participants see themselves in “self-view” and often feel they need to be “on” as well as act accordingly since they can be viewed by everyone. Suddenly people become hyper-aware of their appearance, movements, and the space behind them. There’s a feeling that all eyes are on you, even though they aren’t, but you don’t know who will be viewing you when. With video Zoom there’s little ability to move around; people are grounded in one spot. 

All this can cause stress. 

Often there isn’t time for a break or any down time when one is engaged in back-to-back computer meetings. In the office or at a conference, time is available between meetings to switch rooms or grab a coffee. Online meetings with video restrict how far anyone can move away from the computer. 

But there are ways to try and reduce the tension.

My friend and college professor Vicki has several helpful hints. “What helps me with hours of Zoom meetings: pets, food and photos. I love having my kitties with me on screen, it’s helpful to have cherry tomatoes, grapes, ginger chews or sliced apples within reaching distance, and it’s helpful to have photos of loved ones/loved places within site to remind me of why I’m in front of the screen…for hours…lol… OH — did I forget COFFEE?!”

If possible, allow time between meetings to stretch, get something to drink, or at least look out a window. When on mute, deep breathing will activate the crowded mind, and a few deep breaths before a meeting will help; this is, of course, assuming the video isn’t on! Multi-tasking during computerized meetings can be counterproductive because this can often increase the tension and promote a drifting away from the subject matter. 

This advice is all well and good except it’s not often possible to limit meetings or allow time between each Zoom session. As simple as this will sound, you can assist yourself before the next meeting by taking a few moments to wash and moisturize your hands, focus on another subject by naming the items in the workspace or office, reflect on artwork nearby or the beauty outside the window. A suggested physical relief can be obtained by the massaging of one’s temples. These are not a cure all, but merely a few activities to get one’s mind off the next meeting and the last meeting and the increasing influx of emails while these meetings are in full swing. 

Conference call and video meetings have been around for many years, but recently they may be the only way groups gather. Knowing how to take care of oneself with the pressures of being on screen and yet alone in computer interactions can make the difference in one’s mental and physical well-being. Hopefully, there are a few valuable suggestions here to make your workday and meetings more palatable and less stressful. 

The Future of Connection for Women

Grace Aspinall

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