Are you feeling drained and dreading yet again another Zoom call?
You aren’t alone.
As our world has shifted and changed in the last four months, our social norms of meeting in person have adapted to these changing times. Conducting your work and social life via video chat is more draining than it sounds.
Looking back to March and April, the first couple of Zoom Happy Hours times were fine. We couldn’t see our real faces in real life. We changed our interactions to inside 3-inch by 4-inch rectangles on our laptop screens. Sometimes they froze mid-conversation or disappeared altogether, but they came back pretty quickly.
For some of us, working from home (WFH) became a new concept, we had to adapt quickly to. We had to learn swiftly the Zoom etiquette of muting ourselves if we weren’t chatting. We exchanged our COVID-19 ups and downs and did a lot of waving until, one by one, we said our goodbyes as we slipped away to deal with dinner or kids.
We were all so excited about our family’s Zoom calls. Yet, these virtual experiences didn’t leave us feeling fulfilled and comforted. Instead, it left us was exhausted and just missed everyone more and more.
As more time had passed and that initial excitement about Zoom has faded like a distant memory and replaced with fatigue, you find yourself wondering of ways to decline a Zoom social invite.
You have a case of Zoom fatigue.
Zoom fatigue is a real thing. According to Ted.com, virtual meetings–personal or work-related– require more attentiveness and an emotional effort to appear interested and engaged.
One of the many things the pandemic has taken away is our ability to rely on external reasons for not being able to do something social. Unless we’re still working, what excuse do any of us have for not finding time for a 30-minute Zoom call?
How we process information over video, and how our brains associate virtual calls with work are two of the reasons why you are probably feeling Zoom fatigue. On a video call, the only way to show we’re paying attention is to look at the camera. In contrast, in real life, how often do you stand within three feet of a colleague, a friend, or family member and stare at their face? Probably never.
While we can’t avoid Zoom calls when it comes to work, social events in our personal life can. Ending a Zoom call with family or friends when you’re feeling tapped out can also be tough unless you’re completely honest and communicate that you need time for yourself.
Here are ways to combat Zoom fatigue:
Switch to phone calls. Maintaining social connections is essential. Switching to 1-1 phone calls will bring more connection and fullfillment. When it comes to work, look at your schedule and see which meetings can be conducted over the phone or a quick email memo. Most of the time, these meetings can be done off of Zoom.
Separate your workspace from your home space. Even if it’s the same space, change the lighting when you go “off-the-clock” and change the playlist and ditch the coffee mug from your desk. When you feel you’re working 24/7 and are unable to leave the office to see friends, having tricks to help, you think that there’s a boundary between work and play that can be significant.
Get moving with every little break. Walk, meditate, or do yoga on breaks from calls. The outdoors and getting moving aren’t only relaxing; they help heal the brain. Even if it’s a quick 10-minute break, this will work wonders.
Make calls shorter and take breaks. Suggest this to a supervisor if possible or simply walk away when there’s a lull in conversation or before meetings officially begin. This is why the Pomodoro Technique works, 25-minute sprints of focus with 5-minute breaks.
Build some rituals around work hours. Have a start and end work time so you can stay in control of your time. It will retain some structure, which will also be useful once lockdown lifts and work goes back to a new normal.
It might be different when it comes to work, but know that it’s okay to decline a social invite without guilt.
The bottom line: There’s no need to feel guilty for wanting to log off a little more often or decline an invite. Early on during the pandemic, we heard a lot about how critical it was to stay connected. But we’re still learning about the best ways to do that as social distancing measures continue.
Valerie Alvarez is a social media and digital marketing expert. She owns the business Craveable Social where she helps clients brand their social media platforms and come up with effective marketing strategies. She also has her own personal instagram where she posts about everything from food, to travel, to her adorable little pooch Leon.