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Zoom Fatigue Got You Down?

by PowerSpeaking, Inc.     Dec 21, 2020 9:07:45 AM

Who would have ever thought we’d long to sit at a conference table and meet with colleagues in person five times a day again? Zoom fatigue is real, but fortunately, we’ve got some comic relief and tips to re-engergize.

Producers: Brian and Andrew Moore, and Amy Furber
Cameo appearances by: Amanda, Russell, and Dean Moore


But seriously . . . Why are virtual meetings so tiring?

In an April 2020 article in the Harvard Business Review, researchers cited these factors:

Intense, non-stop listening. Video calls “…force us to focus more intently on conversations in order to absorb information. Think of it this way: when you’re sitting in a conference room, you can rely on whispered side exchanges to catch up if you get distracted… During a video call, however, it’s impossible to do this unless you use the private chat feature or awkwardly try to find a moment to unmute and ask a colleague to repeat themselves.”

The siren call of multi-tasking. Yes, people used to check their smart phone texts and emails during in-person meetings, but it’s way easier to get away with it in virtual meetings. And we continue to believe, despite research to the contrary, that we can multi-task and still listen to and absorb the conversation. Not.

The toll of a “constant gaze” at the screen. Most of us know that staring at a computer screen is a strain on our eyes.  But in addition, it’s a strain on the brain. “On a video call the only way to show we’re paying attention is to look at the camera,” the article researchers note. “But in real life, how often do you stand within three feet of a colleague and stare at their face?” Then, there’s the added stress of  “… staring at a small window of ourselves, making us hyper-aware of every wrinkle, expression, and how it might be interpreted. Without the visual breaks we need to refocus, our brains grow fatigued.”

The emotional stress of home. Kids and dogs wanting attention, the racket from the garbage trucks, the oven timer blaring; the distractions are endless when you work from home. “We’re also continuously finding polite new ways to ask our loved ones not to disturb us, or tuning them out as they army crawl across the floor to grab their headphones off the dining table,” the HBR researchers point out. And that constant effort to work in relative peace is exhausting.


Funniest Zoom moments

Because we went 100% virtual with our workshops and coaching sessions in March, our facilitators have logged many, many hours teaching and coaching remotely.  We thought, in all of that time, they must have some great stories to tell about comic moments in their virtual work worlds.  Here are a few:


Marry Morris  “Hmm, there are so many to pick from! How about the time a naked nana walked across the room in full view of the camera while I was conducting a coaching session?”  




Ralf Wolter  “Sarah [facilitator] and I were running a class and I had just figured out a new feature in Zoom, "let participants choose their breakout room" (versus us manually moving them in there). I was so excited and could hardly wait to test it; so when Sarah announced that the breakout exercise would start soon, I had already opened the rooms and half of the group was in their selected breakouts before Sarah had even explained what to do there. Needless to say, I had to get them all back into the main room and start again. Lesson learned:  Be careful with experiments in a live class.” 

Anshu Arora  “I have two stories. In one coaching session, the participant wore a t-shirt that read: Ready for murder!!! Wake me and face it! We had a hearty laugh on that as I told him, "I surrender sir, may I coach you?!" Another time, a participant was attending the session in his mum's room. She was constantly talking in the local language, speaking all sorts of funny things about a relative who had been indulging extensively in online shopping. The participant kept waving his hand to his mother asking her to be quiet; however, she just did not pay attention. We had to pause our coaching, as it was all hilarious.” 


Payal Gandhi Hoon  “During a session, I asked a participant to unmute and share her main message. She promptly gave a disclaimer, that we might hear some noises. And just then I saw a horizontal brown figure moving past with a bushy tail followed by an informing bark. That was Subbu, the concise version of the Indian name Subramaniam. Next, during a 1:1 coaching I asked her to present, then I looked down to take copious coaching notes. Distracted by a silence followed by panting, I looked up to find Dora the dalmation, who peered straight into the cam, which made me squeal. Dora answered with a resounding Woof! It became quite the 1:1



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Pamela Skillings

Pamela Skillings

Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer/Chief Coach, Big Interview/Skillful Communications, Inc.

Rita Williams

Rita Williams

Master Facilitator and Coach, PowerSpeaking, Inc.

About the Author

PowerSpeaking, Inc.

Topics: Speech Clarity, Career Advancement, Speaking to Executives, Leadership, Presentation Skills, Global Presentations, Virtual Presentation, Leadership Presence, Leadership Development, Strategies, Women In Leadership, Confident Speaking for Women, Technical Presentations, Women Leaders, Speaking Skills, Presentation Training, Public Speaking Training, Executive Coaching, Corporate Communication, Persuasiveness, Effective Voice, International Gestures, Zooom Fatigue

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