As originally published in the Training Magazine, February 5, 2021
Zoom Fatigue Threatens Workplace Engagement
by Heinan Landa | Optimal Networks, Inc.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused employees all over the world to pack up their desks, transform kitchen tables into home offices, and replace in-person meetings with video calls.
Months upon months of video calls later, employees are feeling the negative impacts of hours spent in front of the camera at work—in a big way.
Zoom fatigue—stress caused by an excess of videoconferencing—is a legitimate threat to workplace productivity and engagement. As videoconferencing has skyrocketed, 55 percent of remote workers feel less connected, 46 percent feel more stressed, and 69 percent are experiencing burnout.
HR departments now are scrambling to keep morale at their companies up while mitigating the potential detrimental effects of Zoom fatigue. To remain productive as a remote business, companies must understand Zoom fatigue’s effects and how they can prevent it moving forward.
Why Does Zoom Fatigue Matter?
On the surface, videoconferencing seems like the obvious solution to doing business in the era of social distancing. But if we simply default to having all internal and external meetings over Zoom, we’re going to get exhausted, and our productivity and engagement will suffer. This is for several reasons:
- Video is intense. Video calls require more intense focus than in-person meetings. Because it’s harder to decipher body language through a screen, we must compensate by trying to read micro-expressions on faces, and by taking a more active approach to listening and detailed notetaking.
- We’re distracted. When all meeting participants are visible, we tend to try to pay attention to everyone at once, ultimately resulting in a failure to have a meaningful interaction with anyone on the call. Between that, preoccupation with our own self-view, barking dogs, ringing doorbells, Slack notifications, new e-mails, and the call of the World Wide Web, 26 percent of adults say that even when trying to pay attention during video calls, they usually zone out.
- Our brains get confused. Videoconferencing causes delays in communication, creates a mass of visual information by having dozens of environments to take in, and requires participants to view themselves and others at such a close distance that it can trigger a fight-or-flight response.
- Our bodies get tired. Sitting and staring at screens for hours at a time is physically taxing. The more video calls we have, the longer we sit and stare.
Considering the sheer volume of videoconferencing now taking place in business, along with the fact that 47 percent of workers are working more hours in their remote environments, it becomes clear that what was thought to be a simple solution to the loss of in-person interactions is actually having a detrimental impact on businesses and their employees.