Zoom Fatigue is (Still) Real: How Virtual Commute Time Can Help
Meaningful breaks between meetings can make all the difference.
In 2022, 300 million people used Zoom each day.
And that’s only one virtual meeting platform. Don’t even get me started on some of the others (*cough* Microsoft Teams *cough*); those I can never get to work correctly, meaning I inevitably show up five to ten minutes late, anxiety sweat glowing on my brow.
Though undoubtedly imperfect and occurring alongside significant COVID-19-related challenges, the move to virtual work initially allowed for flexibility. I remember early on in the pandemic, chatting with colleagues about how we found ourselves pausing in the middle of the day to make lunch, take the dog out, or put in a load of laundry. And that felt good. But slowly– maybe quickly, who knows, time makes very little sense anymore– the generous space between meetings (and by generous, I mean 30 minutes) started to disappear.
Because, well… capitalism… the powers that be realized without physical commutes, without the time needed to get from one place to the next, there was no need for breaks between meetings. Suddenly, our calendars look like this: 9:00 am-10:00 am, 10:00 am-11:00 am, 11:00 am-11:30 am, 11:30–12:30 pm, and so on. Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom, told his fellow CEOs at a summit held — you guessed it! — virtually, he once had 19 meetings in a row at his peak.
All of that sedentary screentime takes a toll on the mind and body. The term ‘Zoom Fatigue’ became our vernacular in April 2020. My favorite (and, I believe, most thorough) definition comes from researcher Rene Riedl:
“Zoom fatigue (synonym: videoconference fatigue) is defined as somatic and cognitive exhaustion that is caused by the intensive and/or inappropriate use of videoconferencing tools, frequently accompanied by related symptoms such as tiredness, worry, anxiety, burnout, discomfort, and stress, as well as other bodily symptoms such as headaches.”
The 2023 version of Zoom fatigue, which occurs in the absence of breaks, finds us even more unfocused and stressed. A study from the Microsoft Human Factors Lab sought to explore the impact of Zoom fatigue…