“Zoom Fatigue” Not Present With Online Training

In a real-world and comical way, Dennis Birkemeier gives the definition, symptoms and causes of “Zoom fatigue”. He then shows the steps taken by SynAudCon’s online training to avoid it.

What is “Zoom fatigue” anyway?

Worker showing symptons of "zoom fatigue"

Many of those who have been relocated to their living rooms and dining room tables have realized a few positive aspects of working from home. Topping that list would be trading uncomfortable business attire for flannel PJ’s, and getting to skip the inevitable early morning, mid-morning, after lunch and before-you-leave-for-the-day meetings. You know the ones – where you meet with others to discuss what might happen the next time you have a meeting in 30 minutes.

But what if you’ve simply traded the dread of in-person meetings for horrors of video-based zoom meetings? If you’ve paid attention to social media and current news reports throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve probably heard the term “zoom fatigue.” You may have even Googled “Zoom fatigue” in a desperate attempt to explain why you were mere seconds away from smashing your laptop with a hammer before your next inconveniently scheduled Zoom™ extravaganza.

In a nutshell, Zoom fatigue can encompass many different symptoms – primarily resulting from spending far too much time in front of a “talking head” video.

These symptoms typically include: 

  • Physical fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of information retention
  • Domestic agitation (lashing out at family members)
  • Loss of overall productivity
  • General feeling of dread and sadness towards all technology

Even though social distancing rules are becoming more and more relaxed, a great number of companies are finding it advantageous to keep employees working remotely from home. For corporations, it just makes sense economically until business is booming again. For those working from home, Zoom fatigue can become yet another point of stress in an already chaotic schedule. Although Zoom fatigue is a trending meme for 2020, the condition is not new. In fact, this phenomenon existed long before Zoom became a work-from-home staple. Any prolonged video conferencing sessions can entice the genie of despair to leave its lamp and pay you a visit. At it’s core, Zoom fatigue is a result of modern video/camera ergonomics combined with unrealistic expectations – sprinkled with some good ‘ol basic human behavior.

What causes Zoom fatigue?

Eye contact is lost

The causes of Zoom fatigue are actually quite simple… humans are social creatures. In a video conference, you typically have two or more people who may be presenting or discussing a topic of importance.  But because of the upper bezel camera placement on most desktop/laptop computers, it is impossible for presenters and attendees to make eye contact. In real world conversations, it is important to make eye contact while talking. With video conferencing, the only way to “appear” to be looking at one other is by looking directly into the camera, which then takes your eyes away from the person you are talking to. In other words, if you want to appear to be looking at them, you are actually looking at the top edge of your screen and not at their face. You won’t see their facial responses to what you are saying, and won’t know for sure if they are engaged.

Loss of Social Cues

Maybe they actually are looking at you, listening intently. Maybe they are petting their cat. You don’t really know for sure. You have no idea how they might be responding visually to what you are saying if you are looking into your camera. A great majority of our success in learning or presenting relies on subtle social cues. In fact, within milliseconds, a person can detect the most minute facial feedback expressions from a conversational opponent, and quickly change the way they are explaining something based on the these visual cues and feedback. Being able to quickly detect these micro-expressions (and react accordingly) is imperative for learning and “connecting” ideas. It is also ingrained in who we are – its what makes us human.

Zoom: The uninvited guest at your kitchen table

Another reported issue is the feeling of being “locked” in your chair. That same spot at the dining room table where you used to sit and eat a juicy T-bone has now become cell block 6. Your chair is your prison. In most meetings, it is frowned upon to “break protocol” and get up, walk around, or take your undivided attention away from the almighty presenter. For example, if there is a meeting between a presenter (boss man) and listener/learner (employee), there is an unspoken expectation that both will remain engaged and present during the entire meeting. It is a strange and twisted staring contest of sorts. Apparently, no one got the memo that traditional business etiquette has changed.

Hopefully you filled up a giant mug of coffee, and you have a large bladder – because once the meeting starts, you are not going anywhere, my friend. Catch your kid eating a tube of toothpaste out of your peripheral vision? Let them eat it.  Flying saucer hovering over your front lawn? Hope they’re friendly – because you’re not going anywhere, mister. This is a Zoom meeting. A  Z-O-O-M meeting, and by God you are in it until the end. No exceptions!

Thirty minutes into the Zoom meeting, your mind begins to wander

The boss is staring at you, waiting for a response. “Did he ask me if I watched Tiger King?” You realize you’ve been caught off guard; you’re not getting out of this one.

And another thing for anyone who finds themselves about 30 minutes into a Zoom meeting with no end in sight – thy mind and idle hands begin to wander. You hear the ding of a new email or get a text on your phone, and it becomes a beacon of hope. An audible savior sent to break the monotone voice of the Zoom presenter. An Amazon delivery notification arrives next, and you are wondering which order of the last 50 you’ve placed out of sheer boredom it might be.  Suddenly, reality comes back into focus and you become all too aware that you’ve been asked a question. Like a deer in the headlights, you have zero clue what the question was. It is immediately obvious you’ve missed several important pieces of information, and you were not even aware you were still on a Zoom meeting. The boss is staring at you, waiting for a response. “Did he ask me if I watched Tiger King?” You realize you’ve been caught off guard; you’re not getting out of this one.  You are expected to answer, my friend – it is a Z.O.O.M meeting after all. Next, like a blubbering fool, you find yourself saying one of several default responses:

  • “Ummm…Yes”
  • “Ummm… No”
  • “Hmmm… Maybe”
  • “Uh, what do you think we should do?”
  • “I don’t think I completely understand the question, can you re-phrase it?”

You might as well say “ordering cat food online seemed more entertaining than whatever statistic you are droning on and on about.” It is obvious you’re not paying attention. That’s because it is hard to pay attention with the distractions present in an atmosphere that is usually reserved for “you” time – after leaving work behind for the day. Now that same chair you use to eat dinner is being invaded by a talking head who you’d probably never voluntarily invite to dinner in the first place.

All of these things (and more) lead to the aforementioned symptoms and eventual burnout from having your boss and coworkers become a part of your private sanctuary. So, are we all doomed to experience this fate? The short answer is (in the wise words of my mentor, Pat Brown) – “It depends…”

Kids are often in the same house

Before we get to that, let’s take a moment and talk about the final struggle –  the elephant in the room. Kids.

Somehow, you are supposed to pay 100% attention to your boss regurgitating notes from the previous meeting you had a few hours ago while your kids are starting a small fire in the living room behind you. Its been four months of no school, and they are losing their sweet little minds. You realize you made a mistake last week – you let them watch “Naked And Afraid” so you could get finally get an uninterrupted shower, and now you are dealing with the fallout.

The smoke detectors are going off – but your boss seems oblivious to the fact that your kids are becoming juvenile arsonists while dancing in a circle around the flames wearing last year’s Halloween costumes.

You can smell the smoke. You know the flames are getting bigger – you see an orange and yellow glow reflection in your monitor and can feel the radiating heat. “Soon, these flames will engulf the the entire living room and eventually the house” you think to yourself. The smoke detectors are going off – but your boss seems oblivious to the fact that your kids are becoming juvenile arsonists while dancing in a circle around the flames wearing last year’s Halloween costumes. Maybe the boss is so enamored by his own voice that he does not hear the faint sound of fire engines in the background? Now that’s focus! It is only after he is done with his dreadful PowerPoint that he realizes you’re about to lose your house to a primitive fire set by your kids. Only then will you get that stare that says “Are you going to deal with your obviously attention-starved kids so I can talk for three more hours about what exciting clip art might be in my next PowerPoint?”

It is only when the boss’s kids begin to wreak havoc will you get a break, and perhaps a glance of sympathy.

Why SynAudCon’s eLearning Is Exempt From “Zoom Fatigue”

Training is in modular format – broken down in easily digested lessons

At SynAudCon, we offer eight comprehensive online courses specifically designed to enhance your existing skillset and take it several steps further. Since the courses are strategically designed in a modular format – broken down into easily digested lessons – you are never stuck sitting like a zombie in front of your computer. Our enhanced platform remembers right where you left off, and you can take a break for hours, days or even weeks and come right back to where you were.

Training created with multi-media learning format

Lead instructor, Pat Brown, created all courses with a multi-media learning format. There is a balanced mix of graphical, schematic-based instruction with real-world demonstrations for implementing what you’ve learned.

You are in the driver’s seat

New features such as video time references and quick-link video chapters allow for the ultimate experience in self-paced learning. You, might start your morning before work at the computer watching a chapter or two, then simply log on with your mobile device and continue where you left off while riding the train in or sitting in rush hour.

Even if you are not paying attention, and miss something, you can always rewind and listen again. With SynAudCon, there is no “status quo” to uphold. You are in the driver’s seat. It is just you and a vast ocean of audio information that can enhance your existing knowledge, make you more competitive and potentially open new doors in your career as an audio professional.

So, go ahead and get that Amazon package off the porch! Yell at your kids like a crazy person, shouting threats that defy logic. Throw rocks at the flying saucer above your house (probably not the best idea since you may inadvertently start an interstellar war). The point is, with SynAudCon online training you don’t have to satisfy someone else’s expectations. You can set your own bar as high as you’d like, and reach it in your own time.

Interested? Take a look at our course lineup!