Nick Grant

DESIGN TECHNOLOGIST

How to Defeat Zoom Burnout

WRITING

Why are Zoom meetings so tiring? How do we invigorate ourselves during remote work?

The end of the global pandemic is nowhere in sight. Students and workers alike have been thrusted into uncharted telecommuting territory. Gallery view and screen share are household terms, but Zoom meetings are still difficult to master.

With a few easy steps, however, you will acquire the power to stay engaged no matter the day of the week. The solutions include engaging in small breaks, closing all tabs, and turning off self-view.

A recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management found that 71 percent of workers struggled with adapting to remote work. Between April 1 and April 7, SHRM surveyed 2,278 human resources professionals to understand the challenges that employees are facing. Two in three employers reported a high level of difficulty in maintaining employee morale.

Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, has studied virtual communication between humans for two decades. In his research of video-conferencing applications, he found that users experience non-verbal overloads as a result of constant gaze.

The phenomenon occurs when individuals stare into each other’s eyes for too long, which leads to anxiety and uncomfortability. In fact, a “fight or flight” reflex may be triggered. Zoom users engage in other unhealthy behaviors, such as multitasking and staring at themselves for too long. The following steps will train you to be more mindful as video calls fill up our calendar.

1. Engage in breaks

In a real setting, we never gawk at somebody for such a long period of time. How awkward! Our brains need diversions every once in a while. Even though staring at somebody reduces your energy, small breaks will help you reboot your energy.

In a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, psychology professor Alejandro Lleras and postdoctoral fellow Atsunori Ariga focused on a repetitive computerized task for about an hour under various conditions for 84 subjects. Compared to those who undertook a task with a break, those who did not experienced a large drop in performance over time.

Deactivating and reactivating your goals allow you to stay focused. Without a break, your brain registers the constant stimulation as unimportant to the point in which the brain erases them from our awareness. Every hour, you must take at least two brief breaks.

Breaks may sound easy, but they aren’t. In contrast to multitasking or pursuing a distracting action, silence your mind. Move your head away from the screen frequently. A couple times turn off your camera. Stand up and stretch. Your colleagues will understand.

2. Close all tabs

While you may enjoy the productivity that is presented in multitasking, the immense number of options online reduces your overall attention span. According to a study at the Stanford Neuroscience Institute, which summarized a decade’s worth of research on the relationship between users and technology, heavier media multitaskers exhibit poorer performance in a number of cognitive areas.

When we jump from one task to the next, attention and memory are reduced. People who utilize multiple sources of media perform worse on simplistic memory tasks. In Zoom meetings, opening another tab is tempting. Perhaps the topic does not concern you and your time may appear to be better spent on completing projects.

The little engagements with multiple sources of media, however, lead to long-term damage. You miss important information from your team and are more easily distracted overall. The next time you are in a Zoom meeting, close your browser completely.

3. Turn off self-view

When you are in a Zoom meeting, more often than not you are staring at your face. You are checking out how tired you look, if your face appears too close to the camera, and the style of your casual attire. We distract ourselves with… ourselves.

Zoom meetings are oddly self-reflective. Although there are currently no studies on the effects of self-view in video conferences, researchers have analyzed the effects of staring at a mirror for too long. For example, a study found that people with body dysmorphic disorder are more likely to look at themselves and experience negative emotions.

Even if you do not struggle with body dysmorphic disorder, self-view chats are still an unsettling experience. Humans are universally uncomfortable with staring at themselves for a long period of time. We focus and become self-conscious about how we come off to others.

Luckily, an easy technical solution exists. Simply right click on the window that contains your face in Zoom and click either “Hide Myself” or “Hide Self-View.” In doing so, your conversations will appear more similar to talking in person.

When comparing Zoom etiquette to speaking physically, we spend far more time staring at people’s faces. We believe in our capacity to both work online and listen. Most peculiarly, we waste a great deal of time peering into our own reflections.

With back-to-back meetings, you may be drained at the end of your workday. By engaging in small breaks, closing all tabs, and turning off self-view, you will spend less energy and absorb more information. Maintaining our strength during telecommuting requires both self-control and kindness to our mind and body. All you need are a few clicks.

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