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Tired of looking at yourself?


Zoom-Fatigue is a thing now.

It’s maybe a recent discovery for those of us who aren’t used to this whole work-from-home thing but there is little doubt that the term ‘Zoom-Fatigue’ is something that has everyone needs to take seriously.

In the pre-COVID days, you know, when we commuted to work in a a building that wasn’t your home, as a leader you would worry about folks not having enough uninterrupted time to do their work. Now we worry that our teams spend all their time in poorly executed Zoom meetings which zap them of all their brainpower to do their actual work.

I’ve spoken to a ton of folks over the past 3 months and they have all mentioned ‘Zoom-Fatigue’ in our conversations. Feeling this way myself, it made me do a bit of digging into a pretty interesting question; why do we get so tired on Zoom calls but not in person?

Turns out, you might be the problem. (That likely needs some explanation.)

You’re in the office, the beautifully furnished and coffee stocked office, and you are in a 1-1 meeting with your boss. You’re talking away, going through your list of questions and then their list of talking points and during this delicious 30 minute session you are watching the other person for any non-verbal queues that they are engaged in the conversation.

What signs are they making that they are excited? Why are they squirming in their chair when I ask about the incident last week? They look bored now… quick ask something interesting! The 30 minutes is up and you go off to your next meeting; why is that experience so different to the one on the video call?

A quick Google-Foo and you can find a number of articles on Zoom-Fatigue, but here is the TL:DR;

Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. (1)

Turns out we do a ton more work in video calls than in person. If you add in situations like the anxiety that you may be unmuted/muted for a large period of the meeting and it’s no wonder it’s mentally draining to sit in these calls all day. However, one of the ways you can help yourself is by admitting one small thing to yourself.

A New Perspective

How often are you checking yourself out in a Zoom meeting?

Be truthful here. I do it! I am more than happy to admit I did it for a long long time in lockdown… until I found out that having yourself in one of the boxes on the screen actually harms your focus because you spend extra effort making sure you look interested in the call.

It’s one of the reasons we want to be percieved to be more animated and interested in these meetings because if we don’t make an effort, it will look like we are bored.

Now you could argue that it’s perfectly natural to look at yourself while in a meeting just to make sure you look OK, but do you do this in person? Do you look at the window to get a look at your own reflection or open your phone to check the selfie camera to make sure your hair is sitting right? No, you hopefully don’t. 🙏

What Do You Do?

So, after reading all of these insights and understanding what effect this was having on my focus. I decided to do one of the tactics mentioned in one of the articles I had gone through; hide.

No I don’t hide in the meetings, instead I hide my own video from being on display on the screen(2).

  1. Start or join a Zoom meeting. The meeting automatically begins in Speaker View and you can see your own video.
  2. Right-click your video to display the menu, then choose Hide Myself.

Since then, I’ve found my focus has gone up and my fatigue has gone down. It also means I can spend time looking at the folks I am talking to rather than making sure I look interested.

Just make sure you check your hair before you enter the Zoom room!

Zoom Hair