Dread online meetings? You’re not alone — in our recent research report, we found that a whopping 90% of remote leaders in tech don’t like video meetings either.
If you’re constantly in front of the camera brainstorming with team members on video chat, you’ve likely experienced meeting fatigue, or more popularly, Zoom fatigue.
Video meetings are here to stay. But does that mean you can’t escape your exhausting meeting schedule? Fortunately, there’s a better way to communicate.
In this article, we explain meeting fatigue, its causes, and how to prevent it with asynchronous video communication.
What is meeting fatigue?
The exhaustion you experience after completing one or multiple virtual meetings is called meeting fatigue or Zoom fatigue. If you’ve ever celebrated getting through one meeting and hoped the next one gets canceled, you’ve probably experienced meeting fatigue.
Zoom reported that it had over 300 million people logging into meetings daily in 2020. So it makes sense that more people have the same feelings as you about virtual meetings — over 49% of professionals experience virtual meeting fatigue, reveals a study by Vitara.
What causes meeting fatigue?
Stanford researchers identified four causes of meeting fatigue:
1. Excessive eye contact and the size of a face on a screen
You can take your eyes off the speaker in an in-person meeting. You can take notes, look at your colleagues, or gaze at the screen while a speaker is presenting.
Virtual meetings bring all of these elements to your screen. The speaker, presentation, and colleagues are all in one place — your screen.
You feel obligated to look at the speaker because everyone can see everyone simultaneously. If you take your eyes off, colleagues and the speaker might perceive it as disinterest. But the constant eye contact can be stressful.
Stanford researchers cite the size of faces in a video call as another source of stress.
A person’s face may appear too large if you use a large screen. The large face simulates an interaction we typically reserve for someone we’re close with.
This means our brains expect the situation to lead to intimacy or conflict, which can put you in a prolonged alert state, draining your energy.
2. Seeing your face constantly on video chats
Seeing yourself for hours every day is unnatural and can trigger you to be more critical of yourself.
A study finds that staring at yourself can make you feel worse after the call — a phenomenon called face fatigue.
Think about how you’d feel if someone walked around carrying a mirror in front of you for hours every day. It can be mentally taxing and can have long-term mental health consequences.
Even when you try, it’s hard to stop looking at yourself while in a video meeting. Sure, you could just turn off your camera. But if your boss wants everyone to keep their video on, you could end up with virtual meeting fatigue.
3. Limited movement
Studies show that movement facilitates cognition while lack of movement is associated with cognitive decline. You’ve probably experienced this yourself. A few days of extra workload and sitting for long hours at your desk can make you feel like you’ve lost your edge.
You’re probably using the camera on your laptop or an external camera, which means you can’t move too much without exiting the frame.
You can’t walk around the room while you talk or use too many nonverbal cues to communicate. You’re mostly confined to looking at everyone’s faces.
The lack of movement can deprive you of cognitive stimulation and make virtual meetings less engaging. Over time, this could lead to a decline in enthusiasm for online meetings.
4. High cognitive load
We pick up on nonverbal communication naturally when meeting someone in-person. But it takes more effort when interacting via a video chat.
For example, it’s easier to agree with someone when you’re right in front of them, but you need to nod your head more vigorously on video to show agreement.
Meanwhile, your brain is also busy with other things — it’s trying to ensure your face is properly in the frame, looking at your colleagues’ reactions, and a dozen other things.
Collectively, these factors make your brain work harder. The increased cognitive load drains your energy — that’s why many of us feel relieved after ending a video meeting.
Does meeting fatigue happen in person too?
In-person meetings are cognitively less taxing, but they can still be incredibly draining. This is especially true when you have to attend multiple meetings every day.
Small talk, listening to everyone’s ideas in one sitting, analyzing in real-time, and constantly nodding your head can be tiring, especially if you’re an introvert.
Hopping from one meeting to the next keeps you in a constantly aroused state of mind. Moreover, exposing your brain to excessive information can make it unnecessarily stimulated.
So, should you do away with meetings altogether?
Not quite. You still need to collaborate with your team, exchange ideas, and innovate. Instead of eliminating meetings, focus on things you can do to minimize virtual meeting fatigue.
How to prevent meeting fatigue?
You must be mindful of your and your team’s mental and physical health.
While abandoning the idea of meetings isn’t the best solution, there are ways to help the team feel more comfortable while they collaborate.
Here are a few Zoom meeting fatigue tips to ensure your team can accomplish everything they would in meetings without compromising on their well-being:
1. Use Loom to send async updates
Loom is an async video communication tool that can help minimize meeting fatigue. Loom addresses all causes of meeting fatigue identified by Stanford researchers:
No eye contact: You won’t be live on cam or audio when you record your video message, which means no forced eye contact.
Fewer opportunities to look at yourself: You’re also less likely to focus on yourself when recording a video with Loom because you’ll be the one speaking.
Allows movement within minutes: Since you’re recording just a message, it’s usually quick. You won’t spend hours sitting in front of your screen.
Lower cognitive load: You won’t have to respond to anyone in real-time. Your brain won’t have to work as hard as a video meeting to record a Loom video, which means a lower cognitive load.
Async updates with Loom ensure your team members have the space to absorb a message and react to it without worrying about what other team members might think.
Loom also offers other benefits. For example, Loom videos save plenty of time you’d otherwise spend nodding through a meeting. You can simply start a screen recording and communicate the message.
When needed, you can also show yourself in the recording. Adding your face to the video enables the viewer to pick up on facial expressions.
2. Decline meetings without a clear agenda
A meeting with no agenda can quickly become chaotic and turn into a waste of time.
Your time is better spent on other things than meetings where you may or may not have something to contribute.
If a meeting has no agenda, consider it a red flag and decline attending.
It’s easier said than done — declining a meeting invite can feel daunting. You don’t want your boss to think you’re not a team player. But you still need to protect your time so you can spend it on more productive tasks for the company.
You should politely decline a meeting invite if it has no agenda, explain why you’re declining, and offer to send an asynchronous video message if the meeting needs some specific information from you.
81% of workers already use asynchronous video in the workplace with tools like Loom, so why not give it a try?
3. Ask if it needs to be a meeting
Executives might feel they’re doing the company a favor by dedicating their valuable time to meetings. However, they often fail to realize the cost of meetings to the organization.
Clearly, not all meetings are necessary. Before you decide about calling a meeting, ask yourself if you can communicate the information via Slack or email. If you can, draft a quick message for the team — but avoid Slack-splaining.
If the message needs more context, use Loom. A video message allows you to provide more details because you can speak while showing your screen. Your team will have the chance to view the video — once or multiple times — allowing them to absorb the content at their convenience.
4. Make it a walking meeting
Walking meetings are exactly what they sound like. The host walks while interacting with the team during a meeting.
The idea is to capitalize on the benefits of movement on cognition. Walking improves brain function, boosts energy levels, and stimulates creativity. Also, our brain releases chemicals that have a relaxing effect on the brain when we walk.
Collectively, these factors help make meetings more productive and engaging. More importantly, you’re much less likely to feel fatigued after a walking meeting.
Ready to manage meeting fatigue?
Virtual meetings might never cease to be a part of our professional lives. But you don’t have to let that get in the way of your well-being. Use the Zoom fatigue tips in this article to protect your mental and physical health.
The quickest way to address meeting fatigue is async communication. A tool like Loom provides immediate relief by substituting virtual meetings. Just record your video and share the link — no cognitive load here.
Try Loom for free and take the first step towards minimizing meeting fatigue.