Blog Post

Cartoon Coffee Break: Managing the Effects of Zoom Fatigue

Terry LaBan

Cartoonist and Illustrator

Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back regularly for a new ReWork cartoon.

You’ve probably felt the symptoms of "Zoom fatigue" or "Zoom burnout": sore eyes, lack of focus, blurred vision, overall exhaustion and even migraines. Caused by too much time on video conference calls, it’s a condition that first surfaced in the early months of the pandemic. And these video calls are still wearing us out.

In a November 2020 study, 44% of professionals in the U.S. said they have been experiencing video call fatigue since the start of the pandemic, and 26% noted that the practicality and novelty of videoconferencing has worn off. And these symptoms are being felt everywhere: According to a study from the World Economic Forum, workers around the world are fighting video call fatigue.

Still, with remote work continuing into 2021, the time to take control of video fatigue is now. Both managers and employees can employ simple tactics to make a difference.

Managers: Fight Employee Burnout with Better Meetings

The shorter and more concise meetings are, the less time employees have to spend on video calls. Creating an agenda is a great way to keep everyone on track. Limiting the number of participants on a call can also make video meetings more engaging and productive: Only invite individuals who will have something to offer to the conversation or who have a stake in its outcome. And keep an eye out for meetings that can be phone calls or video-optional to cut down on the need to be on camera. Being on face-to-face video calls can quickly get exhausting and require more focus, since people have to process non-verbal cues faster or maintain a certain tone or expression in order to emote effectively.

Managers can also encourage employees to create "meeting-free" blocks of time on their work calendars to try to limit the hours they’re invited to video calls.

Employees: Prioritize More Work-Life Balance—Even in Small Doses

"Take more breaks." Employees have been hearing this advice since the early days of the pandemic, and it’s no less important now. According to a study by BBC Worklife, taking microbreaks (just a few minutes at a time) can increase productivity and reduce work from home burnout. The study also recommends that employees step away from their computer screens every hour to move around—or, at the very least, get away from screens to rest and recharge.

Managing Video Fatigue In 2021

Video calls are part of our "new normal." It’s all the more important, therefore, that companies learn to recognize video fatigue and find ways to address it among their teams.

For more tips on managing remote employees in the year ahead, check out this ReWork article where Summer Salomonsen, the Head of Cornerstone Studios, shares how she learned to meet the needs of her newly-remote team.

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