I have been using Zoom and other communication tools a lot recently, and I have been reading and resonating with discussions about “Zoom fatigue.”

Is there such a thing?

There are many mediums that allow us all to communicate with everyone in this ‘new world’ we all find ourselves in. Some people have used these mediums before and are showing people the way, delighted at their new found skills, and some are even more frustrated than they were before, shutting off from the world as they reach saturation point. Not only trying to click links and download apps on various different platforms, but getting to grips with not meeting people in person and feeling slightly disjointed with a cut off feeling.

For some and especially the elderly, they crave the in-person meetings. My Father despite his adept use of an iPad, Facebook and his up to date knowledge of what to watch next on Netflix, after 6 weeks is really missing the volunteers that come into his Care Home and the interaction with other Residents and their families, who have now become his new family too. We are in regular contact with him, but need to constantly remind him to move the iPad to see him and not the ceiling.

So despite us all saying that this is the new way of working ( and for many of us who have worked from home for a while and were trying to convince others of the power of these mediums, dismissed as just for those that work from home and trying to fill our time ) this will be the way of having meetings, discussions & training, going forwards. Not only will this save time and money, it will allow us all to reach people and places that were not included in our world before, with a resulting focus, clarity and purpose for us all.

Using these methods for connections with loved ones had just started to creep in before COVID-19, but now more than ever we will all need to make sure that face to face time we spend will need to brighten someone’s day and leave an imprinted memory for them to cling on to until the next time. This is also true for many people who live alone, and despite being used to this, they have become lonelier as their daily walk to a Newspaper shop where this meant they would say hello to people in a shop, or a weekly trip to the Supermarket, where they would chat to the checkout lady as they filled their shopping bag, meeting different people has been significantly curtailed. This is either by their reduced frequency to go outside or because they have been told to self- isolate due to their age or heath conditions.

So, we all need to find a balance and stay connected to each other and not forget that 70% of communication is via body language where we can all anticipate someone.

I don’t know about you, but when we enter a Zoom, Google hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Whereby Streamyard or other communications tools meeting room, we all ‘light up’ because we are seeing people. There is a sense of excitement, animation and mild sense of normality as we see the people in many cases that we already know. Once we have all entered the meeting space, there is a sense of us all setting down to allow the Host to ‘kick off’ the meeting.

Over the last few weeks, I was always excited to join in, but on one particular day I had participated in four back to back meetings of varying lengths. Some people I didn’t know, some were friends and family and some were my networking colleagues who I knew and met with regularly. However, after each one I was, what I can only describe as fatigued. Now this isn’t because I didn’t enjoy them, quite the opposite but because I was pouring 110% of me into them as I always do, wanting to connect, reach out, refer and support. I have kept at it, regularly attending these meetings, but as time has gone on this fatigue has not gone away. I have also noticed that despite being connected in these events, I can also sometimes feel disconnected.

How can that be you might ask, but after reflection, it is because we are hyper-focussed on the screen and the people in them, with some people talking over you because they want to talk and be heard and others who listen and don’t talk, and some who are multi-tasking whilst in the call. All the participants are processing visual clues from each other and the screens that they look at. This is not what normally happens when we are in a meeting or with family, and so this stimulus rich environment can push some people away.

On reflection I think there are certain things that can be done to alleviate this, and I have had the benefit of trying some out for myself;

  1. If you have already booked the call, put a 10-minute reminder in your diary before the meeting so that you are not late and that you are dressed appropriately.
  2. Make sure that you prepare where you will be sitting before this meeting and get your desk area set up with everything you need; pens, paper to take notes, lighting, microphone, camera, headsets / earphones, check your computer, shut the door to the room you are in, check your surroundings and back drop, turn notifications off or mute your phone, get a drink of water.
  3. Settle yourself in your chair and take a few deep breaths and remember that you need to be animated, have a clear but not too loud voice, have eye contact with those that you are addressing
  4. Enter the meeting room a few minutes early or be allowed into the waiting room so that the host knows you are there and ready.
  5. Say hello to everyone in the room and abide by the etiquette of the host in muting yourself or allowing them to mute you and rules for the chat and raising your hand etc.
  6. Take a few moments as everyone enters the room and the screen starts to fill up with faces to note who these people are and whether you know them or not.
  7. Once the Host has started the meeting, I always put the screen on Speaker view rather than Gallery. This allows you to focus on the person that is speaking at any given time and provides less distractions seeing other people drink a cup of coffee or twiddle with a pen, watch someone enter their room and they get distracted or multi task and look away from the screen. Remember in a meeting you are generally focussed on the person who is speaking. Trying to track many people in small screens in Gallery view for a long time can be challenging.
  8. I mentioned multi-tasking above and this is where I have seen look at another screen, talk to someone in the same physical room as them, look at their phone, and someone was doing some crafts whilst on a call. Now I am a multi-tasker and when I started Zooming, did look at my phone and big screen, but quickly realised I was missing out on key things people were saying. Being in the moment of the call and listening is key to the power of the meeting and leaving it feeling that you had enjoyed it, learnt or shared something with someone to help them.
  9. Make sure that you allow breaks between meetings. Make sure you get up from your seat, take a stretch, go for a walk even if it’s to another place in your house, make a cup of tea, listen to some music, meditate, short nap, take the dog for a walk, or go and talk to another member of the house hold or make a call to someone. Just take your brain and eyes away from the screen and do what I call the ‘etch a sketch’ moment, to wipe your brain clear of anything and have a blank screen.
  10. I was in a Zoom meeting with Jeremy Nicholas who teaches communication skills to professionals in all walks of life and his talk was about being a ‘How to be a whizz at Zoom’ and he has some great tips. If you want to know more and join one of his sessions then go to jeremynicholas.co.uk/coaching where he will be adding more dates and where you can read about his coaching in more detail and search his website to read more about him.

Don’t get Zoom, Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams (or whatever you use) fatigue, just make a few adjustments, and you will enjoy these sessions, but remember, be kind to yourself, prepare and take breaks.

Happy Zooming!