The Higher Ed Professional’s Guide to Reducing Zoom Fatigue

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of higher education beyond recognition over the past year. Once-buzzing seminar rooms lie empty, while students spend most of their days learning via Zoom or other video technologies. For many higher ed professionals, the ability to deliver information and student programming while surrounded by home comforts represented a luxuriant novelty during the early days of the pandemic. If you’ve come to dread a long day of Zoom-based classes and departmental meetings, however, you’re not alone.

The exhausted feeling that creeps up on you during virtual meetings is now popularly referred to as ‘Zoom fatigue’, a phenomenon thought to arise from the intense mental processing involved in communicating via a screen. While Zoom meetings are set to remain the ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future, there are tricks you can use to stay alert and boost virtual engagement. These include:

1. Turn down optional meetings

If you’ve endured a long day of teaching online, the last thing your brain needs is a meeting with a colleague about something minor. Unless the issue requires urgent attention, feel free to defer to email and explain why you’re taking a break from the screen. During these tough times, your colleagues are sure to relate!

2. Schedule comfort breaks

One of the main drivers of Zoom fatigue is a lack of visual stimulation. Before COVID-19 hit, your day was probably broken up by trips to different spaces, brief encounters in the hallway, and a lunch hour in the courtyard. Now, students and staff alike spend most of the day working at the same desk. To combat this, schedule comfort breaks in the middle of long meetings or lessons. Even a five-minute walk around the house could be what you and your students need to feel calm, refreshed, and ready to engage in intellectual discussion. 

3. Get rid of ‘self-view’

Are you sick of the sight of your own face while presenting ideas to students and colleagues? Don’t fret – it is possible to hide ‘self-view’ by altering the settings on Zoom. As well as eliminating a potential distraction, this trick will help to bust feelings of self-consciousness and allow you to be your best, most engaging self.

4. Replace live calls with video messages

Have you been asked to deliver a lecture or presentation over Zoom? Record and upload a recorded video instead! In addition to allowing you to present the perfect version of your presentation, it will reduce the feelings of stress that come with live events. If you want to include a Q+A session, you can always schedule one some time after the recording is released. 

5. Stop multitasking 

With the internet at one’s fingertips, it can be tempting to check your email or Google word definitions during Zoom classes and meetings. While this may seem harmless, it can seriously affect your cognitive processes and result in ineffective listening. At the beginning of every virtual lesson, remind participants of this fact and advise them to close all tabs and dialogue boxes. The results could be revelatory!