The reason for your Zoom fatigue might not be what you think

Puppy sleeping next to laptop - zoom fatigue gets all of us

Zoom fatigue is real

Feeling like you’re living on Zoom (or another video conferencing platform) these days? With the recent Zoom boom, there’s also a lot of talk about “Zoom fatigue.” Whether you’re using Zoom itself or another platform, a lot of people are feeling overloaded.


Where’s the fatigue coming from? Many people are pointing out the difficulties in interpreting the tiny micro expressions that can be difficult to capture when your colleagues and friends are represented in tiny boxes on a screen. Others are highlighting the extra work our brains are doing as we hyper-focus to parse both others’ intent and how we ourselves are appearing on the call.  


I know firsthand that virtual meetings can feel incredibly taxing, and some of these things certainly contribute to the zoom fatigue. I’ve been doing all my meetings on Zoom for a little over a year now, and continue to make sure to schedule time between meetings to get a needed breather. However, my assertion is that the main reason behind the fatigue associated with remote meetings is that virtual gatherings, compared to in-person ones, more readily create the conditions for us to be seen and to see others.


While there are some obvious limitations to remote meetings (lack of human touch, only accessible with people who have internet access, technological hurdles, etc.), I find that well-designed remote meetings are much more effective in facilitating human connection, especially with people I’ve never met before.  

Feeling more seen through the screen

For many of us, remote meetings have forced us to invite people into our homes, an invitation that inherently creates a certain amount of openness, vulnerability, and intimacy. We don’t experience this when we meet at the office.

If you previously didn’t talk about your family life at work, now your colleagues know what your kids look like when they burst into the room to ask for a snack.  Didn’t know Jenny from engineering had three dogs?  You do now.  So much more of our lives are laid bare, even if we’re the type to hide all of that away. This creates an opportunity for us to see one another as humans, not merely as our work roles.  

We often live in the fear of being seen as who we truly are: imperfect, quirky, human beings who all suffer from impostor syndrome and are scared of being found out.  I’ll be the first to admit that this can be a real emotional and psychological drain. Yet it also can be a source of comfort and psychological safety as we choose courage, drop our armor, and show up as we are and find belonging.

By dropping our armor, we’re enabling meaningful human connection. We’re being vulnerable and extending trust to our colleagues, and making it easier for them to do the same. This is a trust ratchet that bolsters human connection in three key ways, where trust is:

  1. the glue that bonds people together

  2. the lubricant that reduces friction in our connection and collaboration

  3. the accelerant that fast-tracks are relationship development and the work we do together

Practicing the meaningful work of human connection

While you may feel like you need a break from remote meetings (and I encourage you to be compassionate to yourself and take Zoom breaks!), I want to invite you to take heart in the fact that your tired might be coming from the meaningful work of human connection.


As you connect at a distance, you’re putting in more emotional work than business as usual and practicing Trust-Centered skills like active listening, curiosity, empathy, presence, and more. You can think of these as muscles you build up over time and your Zoom fatigue is that soreness you get from a good workout. Just as your curls and squats get easier the more reps you do, so does making meaningful human connection through video conferences. 


As you prepare for your next remote meeting you have, I hope you see it as two opportunities.  One, a chance to design a meaningful meeting experience for those in that meeting. Two, a chance to be a little more human, and a little more you. 

Learn the skills to design and facilitate meetings that matter


Meetings are a central part of work life, so let’s make them awesome! Our next session of our Master Meaningful Meetings Superclass is scheduled for May 8, and there are still a few seats open. Register now for this live online training to learn the high-value skills of designing and facilitating meetings your participants will thank you for having attended. 


P.S. A key part of designing meaningful meetings is being thoughtful in answering the question, “Does this really need to be a meeting?” Our free web app can help you sort this out.