With the onset of COVID, many of us have found ourselves confined at home. We have become increasingly reliant on platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype to stay connected with our loved ones, hold work meetings remotely, or even celebrate a birthday. For all their benefits, however, our reliance upon video during these challenging times has spawned a surprising new problem: Zoom Fatigue. Being on so many video conferences is simply exhausting (yes, even though we’re lying on our couch in sweats). Those of us who work from home on a regular basis probably recognize that exhaustion from video calls is no joke – in fact, it’s probably one of the biggest challenges for freelancers. Read on to learn more about why we’re experiencing this exhaustion and some tips on how to best manage it.

What Causes Zoom Fatigue?

1. Lack of Non-Verbal Cues

There are several factors that can lead to Zoom fatigue. Firstly, many of the nonverbal cues that we typically rely upon during in-person conversations—eye contact, subtle shifts that indicate someone is about to speak—are out the window. According to research, this makes it so much more difficult to connect with the other person or people on the screen. Our brain has to make extra effort to compensate for all those aspects of communication we lack, and that’s tiring. 

2. Hyperawareness

Secondly, video conferencing can sometimes make us feel like we’re performing for the camera. Many video-calling platforms show our own face in addition to the faces of the people whom we’re speaking with. This is essentially like putting a giant mirror in front of yourself during a meeting. It makes us hyperaware of how we’re coming across. It feels as if we constantly have to be “on”, and that again can be draining. 

3. Worrying Over Potential Distractions

And then there are the distractions — another one of the biggest challenges for freelancers. We feel anxious about our remote workspace and controlling events that might make us look bad in front of our friends or colleagues. Will my Zoom background suddenly fail, leaving my hoarding tendencies on full display? What if my kids suddenly run in? These anxieties add to the exhaustion.

Zoom fatigue - one of the biggest challenges for freelancers

How Should I Manage Zoom Fatigue?

It’s not all bad news, though. On the bright side, there are several ways for you to manage your exhaustion. Regardless of whether you’re a WFH veteran or newbie still getting accustomed to remote work, these tips will help you combat one of the biggest challenges for freelancers. 

1. Be thoughtful about what needs to be a Zoom meeting and what doesn’t

First of all, ask yourself: Do we have to see one another? Ask yourself, why are you having this video call? Are you having this meeting because it’s truly necessary or simply because you want to prove that you’re a good colleague, manager, or friend? Only commit to the meetings that are truly essential.

2. Take care of your body

Don’t schedule yourself back-to-back. This seems too simple, but it needs saying. Try to schedule time in between virtual meetings. Figure out what you need in that moment and do that. If you need time alone, take it. If you need time with a real live person, seek out the opportunity while keeping safe. Make sure you’re drinking enough water. That you’re moving. Make sure you’re not working eight to ten hours a day with just very short breaks. Establish a daily routine. It can feel depersonalizing to be online all the time so, disconnect when you need to. Take care of yourself!

3. Do it the Old-Fashioned Way

Finally, if you really miss someone, consider giving them a good old-fashioned phone call. In fact, you could even write them a letter. Because it’s so rare these days, a letter or a card registers as a gesture of attention, of affection, and of intimacy in a way that jumping on Zoom or Skype or Hangouts is never going to register.