Feeling unmotivated and tired all the time but don't know why? Looks like you may have Zoom fatigue. This phenomenon is relatively new because telecommunication itself wasn’t used as widely before the pandemic. However, those who have worked in the telepsychology field for a while may be more familiar with this term.
According to PewResearch, 81% of employed adults use telecommunication to work from home and 37% of them state they feel worn out because of it. Healthcare specialists practicing telehealth are extremely vulnerable to this problem as well, as their workload and responsibility levels are enormous. Having to diagnose patients and monitor them remotely while making prescription decisions takes its toll. Keep reading to learn how to beat Zoom fatigue and how to check yourself for its signs.
What is “Zoom fatigue”
Stanford's communication department has done significant work regarding Zoom exhaustion. They have described Zoom fatigue as a feeling of being drained from participating in video conference calls. You may have Zoom fatigue if you are experiencing symptoms such as chronic tiredness and lack of energy. Let’s explore what leads to this state.
What leads to Zoom fatigue
Sometimes, people experiencing Zoom fatigue feel burned out, but they don't understand what is causing their exhaustion. The Stanford communication department has investigated the main reasons for Zoom fatigue and how to cope with it. It’s important to understand how to identify Zoom fatigue because studies show that some of these symptoms could be easily avoided if you know what you’re struggling with.
Too much eye contact
Direct eye contact is not natural in real life, where people easily get distracted and often look away, averting their gaze from time to time to feel more relaxed. However, when you use video conferencing software, telecommunication requires direct eye contact most of the time, especially when it comes to telemedicine-based video visits. Looking elsewhere can be interpreted as being inattentive to your patient, so healthcare specialists sometimes have to hold telehealth visits without any significant breaks for their eyes.
Seeing yourself during video calls
J.N. Bailenson, professor of communication at Stanford University and founding director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, has described the negative effects of constantly observing your own reflection in his article dedicated to nonverbal overload. It’s difficult to concentrate when you constantly see yourself speaking on screen. As a result, you can become more self-aware and critical of yourself.
A full working day that consists of numerous video visits can be extremely tiresome because healthcare specialists can’t move around as they normally would when they have breaks between in-person patient visits. Staying glued to the same spot while being in the camera’s view is difficult for a large period of time, and the lack of physical activity is not only damaging to one’s health in the long run but also reduces one’s ability to concentrate effectively.
More cognitive load
Trying to interpret non-verbal signals online leads to excessive concentration followed by fatigue. This is especially true in the telemedicine field, where there’s always a risk of a wrong diagnosis or malpractice. Healthcare providers often require a virtual pre-screening before a patient can make an in-person appointment. If the patient doesn't clearly describe their symptoms and they are not visually recognizable, it may be impossible for a practitioner to spot them, tell if the person needs assistance, or determine if the patient should complete additional tests.
Not only do our brains work overtime when we provide telemedicine-based services, but our eyes also become strained, especially when video visits take up most of the day. If you are working on a monitor for 8 hours or more, you may already expect negative effects on your eyesight. However, there are also additional factors of virtual work that contribute to eye soreness: poor video quality, overly high screen brightness, or, on the contrary, a dimly lit screen or room.
Most healthcare practitioners have to multitask, switching between appointment scheduling, documentation management, and multiple types of communication with patients. This eventually leads to tiredness and can increase Zoom fatigue symptoms even more.
Zoom exhaustion and fatigue scale
Now that we know what the typical causes of Zoom fatigue are, it’s time to explore how we can diagnose this type of exhaustion. The Stanford communication department, along with the Department of Education, Communication and Learning from the University of Gothenburg, developed a scale that can be used to effectively spot Zoom fatigue symptoms. It consists of 15 questions that estimate general, physical, and social fatigue as well as emotional burnout and lack of motivation. Here are some sample questions that can help determine if the specialist is experiencing Zoom fatigue:
- Do you feel exhausted after a video visit?
- Are your eyes tired after videoconferencing?
- Do you want to avoid communication after holding a video visit?
- Do you feel emotionally drained?
- Do you find it difficult to do anything else after having a video conference?
These are only a few questions; however, if your answer is yes to most of them, you may be experiencing Zoom fatigue symptoms.
What are the signs of Zoom fatigue?
There is a thin line between being overly tired and having Zoom fatigue. While you may feel exhausted because of the constant usage of video conferencing tools, there are still many other reasons for exhaustion.
Look for these common signs to determine if you are really experiencing Zoom fatigue:
- tiredness during and between video conferences
- a lack of energy towards the end of a working day
- low ability to concentrate
- feeling uneasy during video conferences
- headache and eye fatigue
- turning off your video or microphone during calls
- feeling the need to spend time alone and recuperate after calls
- a strong feeling of demotivation
If you experience these symptoms, there is a high chance that you have Zoom fatigue. This doesn’t mean you need to immediately quit providing telehealth-based visits. However, you should alter your workflow to prevent possible burnout in the future.
How to combat Zoom fatigue
If you’re wondering how to beat Zoom fatigue, most likely, you or your colleagues have had some symptoms. Perhaps you have even googled what steps should be taken to reduce your symptoms and looked up Zoom fatigue tips. Although there are many pieces of advice on the web, some people find it difficult to implement them all at once. That’s why we suggest adjusting your workflow bit by bit for better results. Feel free to check out these seven steps to learn more.
Step 1. Ask patients to prepare for the video visit
With in-person healthcare services, physicians rarely have problems with patients having unwanted company with them, being distracted during the visit, or skipping an appointment. However, video visits may not run as smoothly.
During an appointment, to avoid any kind of misunderstanding, you have to ensure your patient is alone or with the appropriate guardian and that there are no distractions in their background. You can develop a checklist for your patients describing a routine that will help you and your patients feel comfortable.
Also, if you feel uncomfortable holding a video visit because the area where your patient is located is too noisy or perhaps there are third-party distractions, feel free to ask them to reduce their background noise (turn off their phone ringer or close their doors if there are other people interrupting your communication).
Remember that your first priority is to provide high-quality services. It’s vital that you feel comfortable during the video conference in order to make the right decisions. You shouldn’t be interrupted or distracted in any way, even by background noise. You also have to keep in mind that the presence of third parties or taking a meeting in a public place increases the risk of an accidental disclosure of a patient’s personal information.
Step 2. Organize your workspace
For better comfort, check to see if you have the correct posture and eye level. Use an adjustable laptop holder and adjust your chair to alleviate the strain on your neck and back. Don’t hesitate to make adjustments to your schedule to have some breaks where you can move around and relax.
There are a few kinds of breaks you can take:
- Eye breaks. Avoid straining your eyes, take one-minute breaks every 15 minutes by looking away from your screen and concentrating on distant objects. This will help your eye muscles stay relaxed.
- Rest breaks. These breaks are made less frequently because they require standing up. You can take some time to switch your attention to something other than your job: get yourself a cup of coffee or walk around.
- Micro-breaks. Stretch and move around a bit to let your body relax. You can even do some seated stretches between your video appointments.
- Exercise breaks. You should take an exercise break at least once every several hours. Use them to mildly exercise so that your body isn’t stuck in one position for hours. Step outside if you can. Walk briskly, or sprint a few times. If you can’t easily step outdoors, do some light stretching and deep breathing exercises or take a few minutes for meditation before your next session.
Remember that even if these Zoom fatigue tips seem to be complicated at first, they will pay off in the long run. Develop a good routine. Ensure you make time for breaks and adjust your schedule to make it more flexible. Make sure to spend some time moving around.
Step 3. Manage your workflow
Making changes to your workflow is another effective method to combat Zoom fatigue. Sometimes even small adjustments in your video visit routine or changing your telemedicine platform might help you reduce your burden and gradually feel better.
Try the following workflow changes:
- schedule both telehealth and in-person appointments
- create a space where you provide telehealth-based care only
- organize breaks between visits to maintain a healthy schedule
- use electronic documentation when you can to reduce unnecessary paperwork
Did you know that patient scheduling software can help you manage your breaks? Try Expertbox medical practice management software to develop a healthy workflow!
Step 4. Minimize fatigue during meetings
We have mentioned lack of mobility as one of the causes of Zoom fatigue and explained how you can exercise between video visits. Still, video calls sometimes last for hours, requiring healthcare specialists to sit in a chair for extended periods of time. What you need to remember is that even when you hold in-person visits, you never sit completely still. The same should go for video visits. Here are some easy-to-follow actions that will help you reduce Zoom fatigue while in meetings:
- Shift. Make small adjustments to how you are seated to help you keep your blood pumping without being a distraction. Another approach is to use a standing desk that will let you shift your weight from one foot to another.
- Look up. Allow yourself to take your eyes off the screen for a few seconds. People don’t constantly look each other in the eye when they communicate in person, so there’s no reason why you have to look your patient directly in the eye for the whole visit.
- Adjust screen settings. If you’re holding a group visit, and you start feeling tired, switch between single and gallery views for a change of pace.
- Beat self-consciousness. Most people find it distracting to see their own gestures and facial expressions during video conferences. If you are feeling uneasy watching yourself, simply cover your image with a piece of a sticky note. This will help you avoid the mirror effect.
Step 5. Use quality hardware
It’s difficult to work effectively if your day starts with you struggling to power on your laptop and set up the camera properly. Go through the following checklist to better understand if you’re prepared to provide telemedicine-based assistance:
- your laptop can work autonomously for at least 8 hours
- you have a built-in HD camera, or you have one that connects to your laptop
- you use a large video screen and high video resolution
- you have a microphone that mutes all external noise around you
- you know how to power off and power on your mic and camera
- you have set up all the necessary permissions for your hardware to work
Additionally, you have to check to see if your internet connection is reliable and can handle video calls. If not, it may be better for you to use an optic cable rather than a Wi-Fi connection. You could also contact your internet provider and check if the router you use supports the needed input and output speed.
Step 6. Pick the software that matches your needs
Now that we are approaching the question of what telemedicine software to choose, it’s important to understand that Zoom is only one of the possible solutions and has a narrow range of functionality. However, it is widely recognized because it’s popular among people of various professions that use video communication in their daily lives.
Did you know that Zoom is not enough for a successful telemedicine practice? Learn why it’s important to use specialized HIPAA-compliant telehealth software in your practice.
As for healthcare specialists, low video quality, lack of functionality, and poor user experience are software characteristics that can contribute to your exhaustion. That’s why using reliable multi-functional telemedicine software can help you combat Zoom fatigue.
Pick the telemedicine software that combines powerful video conferencing features with other functions to reduce the need for additional software and platform switching. This decision will save you from potential incompatibility and integration issues. It will also help you keep everything in sync.
You can find a list of must-have features in the picture below.
Naturally, all of these features will only be helpful if you find the user interface comfortable and easy to understand, so make sure to try out multiple solutions before making a final decision.
You can usually ask for a demo call or use a trial period to determine if the solution will be a good fit for you.
Want to try out the all-in-one telemedicine solution that includes all the features you'll need? Empower your healthcare services with Expertbox!
Step 7. Practice self-care
Apart from adjusting your work routine, there are still some small things you can do in your free time to find some relief from the tiresome video visits. Many people enjoy watching online videos, playing video games, or even browsing the internet without any purpose until late at night. However, spending your free time this way doesn’t allow your brain to fully relax. Increased screen time can also be a cause of Zoom fatigue, so it makes sense to find some ways to spend time offline. You can monitor the time you spend online and implement breaks to be more rested. Some devices even provide you with statistics on how much time you spend online weekly and daily.
Another way to practice self care is to plan ahead for vacation and staycation periods that will help you rest by completely switching up your usual activities and routine. Your plan can include a trip to someplace you always wanted to visit or a calm retreat. The main goal is to feel free from daily stressors.
Lastly, even if you work online, you can still take breaks with your colleagues by setting up short meetings to socialize. This is a natural way of communication, and it will help you reduce the cognitive pressure you are under when you work with patients.
It’s important for everyone to understand that there can never be a single right way to overcome Zoom fatigue that will immediately help you feel better. Only gradually implementing the steps described above will help you reduce exhaustion and return to your best energetic self.
Now that you know how to beat Zoom fatigue, you can begin to reduce it by implementing the techniques described in this article. Try to let these techniques allow you to find inspiration in your work again.
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Zoom fatigue is a feeling of being drained from participating in video conference calls, often experienced by those who spend most of their time communicating online using video conferencing tools.
Zoom fatigue can be caused by multiple factors. Here are the most common ones:
- direct eye contact for long periods of time
- watching yourself during video calls
- lack of mobility
- increased cognitive load
- visual strain
You can combat Zoom fatigue in 7 easy steps that you can gradually implement into your workflow. Here they are:
- ask patients to prepare for video visits
- organize your workspace
- restructure your workflow
- be physically active during video meetings
- use quality hardware
- choose reliable telemedicine software
- implement self-care