"Can everybody hear me?" "Oh dear, you've frozen." "Sorry my kids are screaming, I'm going to mute myself." "I can hear you but I can't see you." "Oh, that's the postman at the door, give us a second." "You're on mute, you have to unmute!"
Six months ago, who'd have thought that all the phrases above would become part of our everyday speech, or that our interaction with colleagues would be limited to a handful of awkward, buffering pixels? And who'd have guessed that our children would become the most vocal members of the Monday morning meeting?
Working from home has its benefits, and you'd be forgiven for assuming that sleeping in later and cutting out stressful commutes would mean that we'd all have a little more energy. But it turns out that many people have reported feeling more tired than ever since full-time remote working started. The culprit? Zoom fatigue.
"Zoom fatigue" is the exhaustion caused by online video calls. Business development experts, such as Gianpiero Petriglieri, argue that video meetings require more focus because we are forced to juggle stilted conversations, faulty technology and background distractions – all while maintaining eye contact with several people at once.
So, how do you prevent this new type of exhaustion? We consulted our work colleagues, and our friends and followers on social media, for their top tips on how to combat Zoom fatigue.
Since you don't have to leave your desk to attend a meeting anymore, what's the harm in packing in a few more before the day is out?
But suddenly you're jumping from one call to the next, you're having meetings about meetings, and you can't remember the last time you took off your headphones.
Over-committing is a sure-fire way to develop burnout. Facebook friend Andy Duckering says that if you're suffering from zoom fatigue then, "Just don't attend the meeting." However, this blunt approach could come across as rude and may not be possible if your attendance is mandatory.
Instead, our senior content editor Keith Jackson suggests a more measured approach. He said, "As with any meeting, ask yourself, 'Do I need to be here?' If there's no compelling reason for you to attend, ask the convener why you've been invited. If there's no special reason, politely decline the invitation."
Editor Matthew Hughes advises people to "space meetings out over a week."
If you do have to attend multiple meetings in a day, then ensure that your workspace is clean and comfortable. Sitting with your laptop in bed may sound cosy, but it probably won't do your back much good.
If possible, replicate your office setting with a desk and a comfortable chair. If you don't have the correct equipment, talk to your employer about getting the tools you need to work efficiently.
Senior editor Charlie Swift says that switching up your location can help to ease your mind and body. He said, "Try different locations for different meetings: different chairs, different rooms, different views, standing and sitting."
Natural light is also essential to maintaining energy levels. Charlie suggests positioning yourself so that you can look out of a window, adding, "It relaxes your eye muscles from continual short focus."
Don't get too comfortable, though. Sitting still for a long period of time is more tiring than you might think. Give your brain and muscles a rest by taking short breaks to stretch your legs and get a drink.
We've all been guilty of it from time-to-time: you're on a call but you can't stop thinking about that email you need to send. No one's watching so you type a quick reply as quietly as possible while your colleagues talk among themselves.
Multi-tasking is a dangerous habit to fall into, especially during meetings. Not only are you not giving the discussion your full attention but you're also forcing your brain to work overtime.
Before your meeting starts, shut down any open browsers and pause your email and messaging notifications. And if you're prone to checking your phone, make sure to turn it off for the duration of the meeting.
It can be particularly difficult to pick up on visual and behavioral cues in video meetings. As a result, you may struggle to relax into natural conversation. What ensues is often a series of awkward silences and vague small talk.
Petriglieri explains that these silences feel so exhausting because "silence creates a natural rhythm in a real-life conversation. However, when it happens in a video call, you became anxious about the technology" and become increasingly uncomfortable.
As LinkedIn follower Najla Asbei puts it, "Virtual meetings are not like face-to-face meetings: they need more energy, and a different time frame."
Marketing acquisition manager Claire Minnis added, "Make the calls as efficient as possible. Have an agenda, stick to timings, keep to topic, and keep things energized otherwise they drag and drain energy."
Facebook friend Dianna Beck-Clemens complained that she has "Zoom neck syndrome from nodding in response to everyone."
The constant pressure to appear focused can be tiring. Instead, consider whether the meeting needs to be a video call. Visual cues can be helpful in larger groups but for one-on-one meetings perhaps an old-fashioned phone call would do the job?
Interactive tools such as Mural can offer a helpful break from staring at one another's faces.
For many, the most gruelling part of video chats is trying to end the call. You're desperately trying to come up with a convenient excuse to leave, but everyone knows that you're stuck at home.
Don't be afraid to be honest, and politely excuse yourself from the conversation. You'll save wasted time and your colleagues likely feel the same way!
When you're stuck at home, it can be difficult to break away from technology. Claire Minnis advises us to take a break from screens at the end of the working day. She said, "Don't move straight onto personal video calls, or looking at your phone, get outside and exercise or read a book." This will also help to create a distinction between your work and personal life.
Finally, remember that you're in this together. Everyone is struggling with the same growing pains. So, don't worry if your conversations are slightly stilted or awkward – it's all part of the learning process!
Thank you to everyone who shared their tips and tricks. If you have any advice on how to combat Zoom fatigue, make sure to leave a comment below.
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