All This Zooming is Exhausting…But Why?

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Ok, so we’ve been sequestered for about a month now, and it’s getting pretty old. I mean, I don’t mind this whole working from home thing, but…

I miss the alarm clock waking me up when I’m in my fourth snooze session. I miss hurrying to get my workout completed to hurry some more to take a quick shower. I miss the rush out the door with no breakfast and just a container of coffee. I miss the sound of my car. I miss the traffic. (Wait, what?) Yes, I miss the “fun” of driving alongside others and waiting at lights and speeding up to make the next one.

Funny thing is, now that I can slow down and enjoy an alarmless Tuesday morning, workout if I want to, actually eat a healthy breakfast, stroll on over to my home office and get to work by nine, I actually feel exhausted by the end of the day.

What the heck is going on here?

I should be well rested, relaxed, and refreshed. I mean, I can just grab a snack whenever I want and enjoy it while sitting outside listening to nature. And yet, somehow, my energy is depleted, my mind is not focused, and I’m just not enjoying this WFH stuff all that much.

Is it because I am doing laundry between “meetings”? Is it because I’ve learned how to bake amazing bread between “meetings”? Is it because I’m now squeezing in a little extra time for family between “meetings”?

Or is it these darn “meetings”?

The buzzword of the COVID-19 shutdown has got to be Zoom. It’s all anyone talks about anymore. Yes, there are other video conferencing tools like MS Teams, Skype, Marco Polo, and many others, but Zoom is the big dog right now. Heck, it’s even become a verb like Google. “Let’s zoom this meeting so we can get a visual on everyone.”

It turns out these video conferences are making our brains eat a lot of glucose to get through the day. You see, live meetings are different from virtual ones, but you already know that. What you may not know is the reasons the virtual meeting is so exhausting.

Let’s explore.

So, in a live meeting you have the benefit of context, environment, and body language. And our brains are accustomed to taking this all in and throwing away what is not needed to function properly in the situation.

On the other hand, in a virtual meeting, you can have the same six people on screen, but have very little peripheral information, which seems like that would help you stay focused on the immediate situation.

But that is not what happens.

What happens is your brain strains to fill in the bits it is used to getting all the time: Carole doing that pen flip thing, the picture on the wall five degrees off alignment, papers and notepads around the table, the clock quietly ticking from behind, Marcus clicking his pen constantly (Marcus! Stop with the clicking!).

Now all we get are small 16:9 aspects of six different people in their homes. Each one containing very different objects and furniture, each one with varying levels of background noise, each one with displaying different video quality (honestly, Marcus, get a stronger wifi router).

So now our brains are struggling to make sense of all of this for extended periods of time, multiple times a day, with no end in sight.

And we are now presented with the one thing that never, ever happens in a live meeting. We have to look at ourselves on screen, constantly checking our faces, our smile (do I have any spinach in my teeth), is there anything distracting behind me, and making sure our hair is in place (though, seriously, how long has it been since anyone went to the barber or salon…there’s only so much product you can apply to keep things in order).

Looking at ourselves over and over while trying to take in all this other data is exhausting and our brains are having a hard time dealing with it all.

[There are much smarter people with lots of data at National Geographic and Psychology Today if you’re interested in learning more.]

So what can we do to help ourselves?

  1. Take meaningful breaks to rejuvenate your brain.
  2. Set a few phone conferences, in place of video ones.
  3. Cover your image with a sticky note during video conferences.
  4. Get everyone to use the same background. (Maybe the company logo or something plain and pleasant to look at.)

These are just a few ideas of how to reduce Zoom gloom. What do you do to keep yourself refreshed and ready to Zoom?

Oh, my alarm just went off. Gotta get that bread out of the oven. Leave your comments below.

Your Mindful Moment:

Don’t forget to call your mother. She misses you.

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