Friday, September 4, 2020

Zoom Fatigue

As the seasons change, it’s hard to believe that we’ve been living in pandemic mode for the last six months. Remember all those early quarantine trends from March like baking bread, binge-watching Tiger King, making whipped coffee to keep up with the TikTokers, and attending Zoom happy hours every night of the week? 

By now we’re all familiar with Zoom fatigue. Julia Skylar, in her National Geographic article, “Zoom Fatigue is Taxing the Brain,” observes that “video calls seemed an elegant solution to remote work, but they wear on the psyche in complicated ways.” She describes how a typical video call lacks significant non-verbal communication cues and leave participants feeling exhausted.

In a New York Times article, “Why Zoom is Terrible,” Kate Murphy explains that “psychologists, computer scientists and neuroscientists say the distortions and delays inherent in video communication can end up making you feel isolated, anxious and disconnected (or more than you were already).” With so many drawbacks to video conferencing, Murphy actually prefers voice-only phone calls: “The absence of visual input might even heighten people’s sensitivity to what’s being said.” Despite all of the excitement of virtual happy hours, virtual business meetings, virtual classrooms, and virtual psychotherapy, she suggests “When it comes to developing intimacy remotely, sometimes it’s better to be heard and not seen.”

After weeks filled with everything from virtual business meetings to virtual church services, Zoom fatigue likely makes you want to say no to a virtual chat with your team to catch up. In a Fast Company article, I found some creative alternatives to virtual happy hours that may give you some ideas for interacting with your coworkers during this new phase of the coronavirus pandemic. This list, from Justin Pot-Zapier’s article “Sick of Virtual Happy Hours?” focuses on having something to do together other than talking, which removes some of the awkwardness of a video call.

  1. Watch a Movie Together – You can create a virtual viewing party using Netflix Party (or a similar service for Amazon Prime, Hulu, or YouTube) where everyone wears headphones and watches the same movie with some voice-only chit chat to make you feel like you’re together. 
  2. Play Games Together – You can play some physical board games together if everyone has their own board, and you can play virtual board games via Board Game Arena. You can also play Jackbox party games remotely using a combination of Zoom, a TV screen, and each participant’s individual phones.
  3. Trivia Nights – You can recreate a bar trivia night by making your own trivia deck via PowerPoint and playing with your group via Zoom. 
  4. Bake or Cook – Your group can choose a recipe in advance so everyone has the necessary ingredients, and then you can hop on a call and cook together. Another variation may be a virtual wine tasting where everyone receives the same wine and cheese in advance so they can feel like they’re sampling together in the same room.
  5. Go For a Walk – You can take a step away from your home office and chat with a coworker while you go for a walk. Although Pot-Zapier describes a video-call walk with his phone in pocket, I think an audio-only stroll with AirPods sounds more appealing.

While virtual team-building certainly depends on each team’s personality and it’s clearly more challenging than a spontaneous lunch or watercooler chat, these ideas provide a starting point to refresh your communications as we approach another season of the coronavirus pandemic.

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