Young man covered in sticky notes, work overload
PHOTO: Unsplash/Luis Villasmil

Earlier this month, CA-based, Zoom introduced a bunch of new app integrations under the umbrella of Zoom Apps along with Zoom Events, which is targeted at large-scale business-focused internal and external events, hosted through Zoom with their own event hub and ticketing platform. The idea is to try and make work easier and reduce the increasing amount of Zoom Fatigue.

Making work easier has been an enterprise ideal going all the way back to the emergence of document management systems but now, with the emergence of hybrid workplaces, developing an effective remote strategy built on internal and external communication is not just desirable, its essential.

What is Zoom Fatigue

Ewelina Melon, head of people at UK-based Tidio, a unified communications provider, points out that while new technologies and digitalization are on the leading edge in today's post-pandemic world, along with all the great benefits, comes new challenges. One of them is Zoom fatigue, the tiredness we feel after spending long hours on videoconferences.

To be clear, although we are calling this "Zoom Fatigue," really we are talking about the fatigue we are feeling from all of the apps, meetings and video conferences that have become a part of our workdays.

Carolyn Reinach Wolf, a mental health lawyer cited in Psychology Today, defines Zoom fatigue as tiredness, worry or burnout associated with the overuse of virtual platforms of communication, particularly videoconferencing. The name is derived from the cloud-based videoconferencing and online chat software Zoom, even if it used to refer to non-Zoom video conferencing platforms like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype and others.

What Are Zoom Apps?

Zoom Apps embed third-party apps within the Zoom Meetings and desktop client experience. Zoom Apps combine productivity apps with video communications by allowing you to access them directly within your Zoom Meetings. Users can add to their Zoom experience with a variety of apps that cover many use cases — including white boarding, project management, note-taking, gaming, and more!

Aside from productivity gains, it was also noted, that by pulling all work tools into a single video-focused workplace, this would reduce the need to jump around into different apps in meetings and reduce, if not eliminate Zoom fatigue, which is now acknowledged as a major problem for hybrid work strategies. However, Melon doesn't think that the new Zoom Apps are not going to help reduce the fatigue we are all feeling.

“I think that new features of Zoom such as note-taking, video games, or white boarding are not exactly what we need to deal with Zoom fatigue,” she said. “We still need to cope with online communications problems such as difficulties with reading body language or any other distractions such as slack/ calendar notifications."

Reducing Zoom Fatigue 

Zoë Morris, president of the UK-based Frank Recruitment Group, points out that when your team is working remotely, the general rule of thumb is to overcommunicate. Checking in, clarifying, sending that one extra email to make sure everyone's on the same page is often necessary to stop things from falling through the cracks or leaving employees feeling isolated. In the early days of the pandemic, there was a lot of advice about doing more video calls, seeing other people's faces, and not relying too heavily on email and instant messaging to keep people engaged.

“At this point, we're all pretty tired of that too,” she said. “After a year working at home, though, many remote workers have come to dread the prospect of yet another Zoom call. There are no passing comments by the coffee machine anymore, only a constant sight of faces in squares. That can grind you down," said Morris. Adding some variety in the way workers communicate using video-based platforms like Zoom will certainly help reduce the fatigue, but we also need to acknowledge that even if we're increasing the diversity of options available, that shouldn't necessarily mean that we increase the volume too. There will always be cases where less is more.

“I think the issue is that people feel the need to be ever-present to counterbalance the fact that we're not physically together,” Morris added. “When you're in front of your computer all day, there's an expectation that you're always on, always available. That's not conducive to focus or well-being. It can feel counterintuitive, but business leaders need to allow employees to draw boundaries for their own productivity and their sanity.”

She added that the concept of multitasking is a myth, and constantly flicking between video calls, whiteboard sessions, and the work you're trying to complete can be draining.

So, how to deal with zoom fatigue and take the best from online meetings without feeling overwhelmed?

  • Less is more: One of the reasons we feel overwhelmed by online meetings is that there are too many of them. That's why, before accepting the invitation or organizing the online conference by ourselves, it is worth considering whether it is vital. It's also important to remember about breaks between meetings to draw breath.
  • Be present: Video conferences require much more attention, concentration, and self-control than face-to-face meetings. During online meetings, it is worth limiting all other distractions, for example, turning off Slack notifications and closing email. It will help users focus only on the meeting and not being distracted by unexpected messages.
  • Develop communication skills: In the online world, communication skills are more important than ever. Without transparent, straightforward, and empathetic communication, online meetings can cause even more fatigue and stress. First, we need to learn how to communicate effectively and precisely express our ideas and feelings. “We should be open to give and receive feedback and ask whether we were understood correctly. For example, we can rephrase sentences or ask additional questions. It helps us to make sure we are on the same page with others,” she added.
  • Too Many Virtual Events: Dion Beary, director of business development for Jumbo, a virtual event management specialist based in Charlotte, NC, argues that Zoom fatigue originates from the huge number of underthought virtual events in the early days of remote collaboration. Event producers, he said, had to pivot in a hurry and many didn't have time to think about audio/visual quality, interactive elements, or seamless experiences. This has left a bad taste in attendees minds when it comes to virtual events. Zoom Events may be too late to the game.

Final Thoughts

As a final thought, Karl Hughes CEO of Chicago-based Draft.dev, which operates using a fully remote and 90% asynchronous team, said that while the apps and events services offers useful experiences and features, ultimately they don’t give you that break that your body needs from the virtual world.

“In fact, some of those applications may make the problem even worse — such as video games or project management ones,” he said. “It is certainly an interesting idea to play games as a team-building exercise, but you’re still on a meeting call with your colleagues and leaders. The longer you’re forced to be on a Zoom call, whether you’re actively speaking or not, the greater the likelihood you’ll experience fatigue.”