How to Beat Zoom Fatigue—and Set Healthy Boundaries

Zoom fatigue. It’s one of many phrases none of us thought we would use in everyday conversation, yet here we are.

Now more than six months into a global pandemic, Zoom calls have quickly become the preferred alternative to in-person interactions, whether it’s a work meeting, happy hour, wedding, or birthday celebration. While it feels easy to hop on a Zoom call for work, followed by virtual social events on nights and weekends, all without ever leaving home, the back-to-back chats can actually be exhausting.

Quick access to your coworkers, family, and friends probably offered much-needed comfort in early March and April. However, as the pandemic drags on, you might be less enthusiastic about the constant Zooming. If so, it’s a good idea to put some boundaries in place.

How Did We Get So Zoom-Centric?

According to Alycia Huston, a leadership consultant with over 20 years of experience in neuroscience and empathy development, Zoom was there to fill in the gap when businesses and schools were abruptly shut down at the onset of the pandemic.“Zoom reached out to school districts and offered their services. That’s why I believe Zoom was at the forefront,” Huston shares. “They actually made the connection to reach out and people saw how it made sense.”

Further, she says, “Zoom also helped to make the transition easy, and by easy I mean on the pocketbook. It was free for awhile for educators, and we all like free resources. Especially for schools, where budgets are often limited.”

Why Is It Important to Think About Boundaries Now?

A question you might often ask yourself these days is, “Why am I so tired?” It’s an odd feeling a lot of us experience more than usual, despite the fact that we may have reduced daily commutes and other strenuous physical activities. Still, the constant stimulation and focus needed to sit on Zoom calls could play a part in the tiredness.

“The brain gets fatigued from overexertion,” Huston says. “Our brains process images, and when we oversaturate our eyes and brains with images on the screen from birthdays and graduations, these visual images cause brain fatigue. That, in turn, lends itself to physical fatigue.”

When we were optimistic that quarantine would only last for a few weeks, it seemed reasonable to fill our schedules with lots of Zoom calls in the interim. Now that remote work and social distancing are part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future, such intensive Zoom marathons are less sustainable.

The What, When, and How of Boundary-Setting

Still, in both your personal and professional life, it’s easier said than done to opt-out altogether. If you work a 9 to 5, you probably don’t have a ton of control over how many Zoom meetings your boss schedules you for, or how often they occur.

Nadia Brown, CEO and founder of The Doyenne Agency, a sales training organization for corporate employers, says it’s a good idea to approach your boss with some alternative options when you can’t say no flat out.“You have to assess the situation carefully, especially if it’s professional,” Brown recommends. “If you can, try to make one day of the week your ‘Zoom day’ so you can leverage other days to not be on calls and get some work done. Ask your boss what could work for everyone.”

Other things that might help to fight off Zoom fatigue are to block off times before and after meetings to catch your breath, and limit nonurgent calls to one or two per week. For short or informal conversations, you can even make a suggestion to switch up video chats with “old-school” communication like a phone call. (Remember those?) Zoom might feel like the best method to talk to people at the moment, but it’s OK to think outside the box if you feel worn out.