Oh no, not another Zoom call! Is that your reaction every time you get an invite for a Zoom call? For work or with friends and family?

Guess what? You’re not alone.

As people across the world work, study, and party from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, many are just dead tired with all the video chats. Whether it’s on Hangouts, FaceTime, or Zoom. 

By the end of your fifth call of the day, your brain begins to shut down, your eyes are blurry and you have a throbbing headache. There’s even a word for it now. 

Zoom fatigue. 

Yeah, that’s right, it IS a real thing. 

But why are video chats so draining? 

Experts say video calls just take a lot more concentration, that’s why. You have to focus on 10 to 15 people—sometimes even more—in gallery view; and it’s that much more difficult to process non-verbal cues such as facial expressions or body language on a digital call than in an in-person conversation.

And if the video is framed too close, you can’t see hand gestures or any other body language, which means you have to concentrate closely on the words instead. 

It’s just mentally and physically exhausting to divide your attention between screens, concentrate on the audio, and participate meaningfully in a virtual conversation. Sometimes you’re being slammed from every side when people start talking at the same time.

 “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at INSEAD and an expert on leadership and learning in the workplace, told BBC Worklife.

Video calls can also be stressful because of performance anxiety. You feel like you have dozens of eyes trained on you and every gesture or bat of the eyelid is being watched. Sometimes you keep staring at your own face and that makes you even more conscious.  

Then there’s the faux pas fear. 

In the beginning, it was fun. The video calls allowed you to connect with colleagues. You carried on working from home as though nothing had changed. You had a virtual drink with friends in the evening. Or you caught up with family across the world on a weekend video call. 

But then the fun began to wear off. And the explosion of video chats became stressful. The screen freezes. The audio glitches. The dropped internet connections. And the fear of a video call faux pax.

We’re not talking about a cute faux pas like the famous ‘BBC Dad’ Robert Kelly whose adorable kids crashed his home office video interview with the BBC. More like the mortification of the woman who forgot to turn the camera off as she went to the toilet during a work video call.

Yes, video conferencing is exhausting. After all, it’s not normal to stare at a screen for long periods of time or try to edge into conversations with so many people jumping in at the same time. Also, there’s something deeply disconcerting about letting people into your homes. 

“When we're on all these videos calls all day long, we’re kind of chained to a screen,” Suzanne Degges-White, chair of counseling and counselor education at Northern Illinois University, was quoted saying in USA Today.

“It's just psychologically off-putting. I've got to show up again but the thing is, we're not really showing up anywhere,” she said.

So, how do you beat Zoom fatigue?

Well, for starters, just cut the number of video calls. And don’t do back-to-back calls. Give your brain a break. 

Use your phone to dial into video meetings instead of a computer. And do it without video. It’s easier because there’s less pressure if you only join by audio. You can walk around the house or your garden while you listen to an animated discussion about the next project at work or discuss family politics with cousins. You’re still in the conversation but without the added pressure of video.

Just don’t let Zoom fatigue zap you.

Sugita Katyal is an Associate Director with the Curriculum team at Harappa Education. A former journalist and history major, she loves watching crime shows.

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