Not too long after we all went into quarantine, people started to complain about video conference burnout. Zoom seems to be the most popular of the online options, so the terms “Zoom burnout” and “Zoom fatigue” and “Zoom exhaustion” have started to enter our popular lexicon.
In addition to Zoom, I have recently have meetings or conferences on WebEx, Skype, FaceTime and on my work-owned devices on Cisco Jabber. I have certainly had days where I felt like I had a bit too much online conference time – but today was the first one where I felt the reality of “burnout.”
The first meeting was great. It was my weekly one-hour voice lesson with my voice teacher. That felt great and didn’t seem to be overly stressful. The second was actually ok – a board meeting for a board which I chair, but only five of us on the call and we are all good friends. I opted to skip out on a one-hour webinar that would have wedged between meeting 2 and 3. The third and fourth meetings were both committee meetings for my job, each an hour long. One had 16 participants, the final one had something like 39 people.
By midway into that final hour of video conference, my brain was mush. It is insanely difficult to focus when there are so many people. I cannot imagine how I would have felt had I tried to attend that webinar in the midst of all these meetings. I read an article about this a week or so ago, and I now concur with that article. The author mentioned that one of the issues is the lack of non-verbal cues.
In regular face-to-face interaction we rely heavily on our assessment of non-verbal cues from the speaker – breathing, posture, facial expression, gestures, etc. On video, most of those are missing so whether we know it or not, we are paying attention far more intensely than normal.
It’s exhausting and today nearly debilitating for me. I finished up that last meeting and thought, “Dear God, I cannot imagine cooking dinner.”
I managed to push through that haze and actually am in the process of making a rather lovely dinner right now as I am typing these words (the chicken is resting before I can carve it). So I managed to get past my Zoom fatigue today. But with an open-ended period of remote work ahead of me, I am not sure how much more of this I can take.
Calgon, take me away!
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.