Fighting Zoom Fatigue

Sep 14, 2020

No doubt the last few months have been strange.  By this point most of us are quite proficient at using online meeting tools.  So are our kids.  At first it was novel.  I remember thinking that it was pretty cool even.  But after countless meetings and virtual happy hours, my excitement waned.  Turns out, I wasn’t alone.  Zoom fatigue, sometimes referred to as remote work fatigue, is a real thing.  While most of the business industry has learned to cope with zoom fatigue, school children across the country are starting to experience it.  We’ve put together a few tips and tricks to help everyone deal with the fatigue.

For adults:

Stick to an agenda

Setting an agenda for meetings, and sticking to it, can help all members of the meeting.  Nothing is more frustrating than sitting in a meeting that has no direction.   Once you have created an agenda, send it out to all attendees. When everyone is prepared, meetings can run more efficiently and effectively.  For topics that arise and are not part of the agenda, develop a protocol for dealing with them.  Whether  you devote 10 minutes at the end of the meeting to those items, or table them for the next meeting, decide before the meeting what you’ll do.

Phone it in

Sometimes it is more effective to join the meeting in audio only.  When in a “in-person” meeting, people often doodle, look out the window, or use their peripheral vision to look around.  These behaviors might be frowned upon in a video meeting.  So phone it in.  You can take notes or doodle.  You can walk around, get a snack, or pet your beloved pup.  All of these things can break the fatigue.

Don’t multitask

Whether you join your meeting with video or just audio, focus on that meeting.  Avoid multitasking.  No one would ask you to hold an in person meeting, while communicating with a potential client, while discussing shipment details with a supplier, while planning out a proposal – so don’t do it with a virtual meeting.  You will be much more effective with all of those tasks when you focus on each one separately.

Take a break

It’s tempting to go from meeting to meeting to meeting.  But this creates a great deal of fatigue.  Schedule your meetings with time in between them.  Get up and walk around for a few minutes.  If there’s enough time, switch gears and work on another item on your to-do list.

Create your own space

Ensure that your working and meeting space is different from your living spaces. It is unhealthy to work all the time.  No one wants to feel like you are at work while eating dinner with the family.  If you are conducting meetings at the table and having dinner, your brain will have difficulty switching gears.   By creating a dedicated work space, you will avoid the feeling of always being at work.

For kids:

Check on the kids

Kids might not know how to put into words the stress they are feeling.  If adults are feeling stressed from the changes to our culture, you know kids are feeling it too.  Beyond their own stress, they are feeding off the stress from adults around them.  Take a moment to ask kids how they are feeling.  Virtual interactions can make some people feel even more isolated.  Don’t underestimate the need for physical interactions for kids.  High fives, bear hugs, and a pat on the back can go a long way with your child.  For older kids, give them time to talk about school, TikTok, and all the other things they are involved in.  This line of communication gives them a chance to share how they are feeling about the remote environment.

Skip it

There are about as many plans for remote learning as there are school districts.  Hopefully your child’s district is flexible in the times they access the lessons.  It is well known that most teenagers can pay attention about 12 minutes before they begin to lose focus.  The time frame is even shorter for younger kids.  While education is of the utmost importance, the health of our kids is far more important.  It might be that some days, your child needs to access the lessons asynchronously.  Watch your child for signs of Zoom Fatigue and give them a break when you can.

Don’t force the socials

Just like adults grow weary of the virtual happy hours, kids can too.  When possible, let them play with the neighborhood kids rather than seeing them only online.  You could even take your kids back to the 90s and let them call their friends.  Avoiding the video portion of meetings can help kids differentiate between work and social.  Remember, part of a child’s education is the social interaction they were previously getting at school.

Benjamin Franklin once said “fatigue is the best pillow.”  Rest is above all a necessity for adults and children alike.  Both need a regular bedtime to function at their best.  If there is a silver lining to zoom fatigue it is that we should all be ready for a good night’s rest.