Let’s talk about something that we may not have thought about in the new decade thus far, Zoom Fatigue. It is a very real issue that we are dealing with. If you have not heard about it, here is a great article from Psychiatric Times that talks about it. With the shift to a remote-first or hybrid model, we are spending a much more significant percentage of our day in virtual meetings, without the traditional “accidental” interactions and breaks.
We can no longer rely on the twenty-minute watercooler talks, the ever famous (I have yet to see) Michael Hepples whiteboard brainstorms, or even just a quick catchup as we pass in the hallway that we unconsciously rely on for a periodic mental break in our day. Even just having to see your own face on the screen all day every day, not to mention potentially being recorded, is exhausting. We are going to look at a few reasons why Zoom fatigue is a thing, and what we can leverage using Microsoft 365 to help combat it.
Excessive Amounts of Close-up Eye Contact Can Be Intense
In normal meetings, you can look around, look at different people, take notes, and even see that everyone else isn’t looking directly at you. In a Teams meeting, people may not be looking at you, but you are always conscious about how you are interacting while using your video. You also might be very close to everyone speaking and even listening, depending on the device you are using, and your home office setup. This can cause a lot of stress for most people, as you are in very close proximity, and can feel very intimate to some people.
There are great solutions that Teams has implemented to deal with this. One of the first ways I would suggest is using Together Mode for some of your larger meetings. This will allow you to be more engaged. You will be able to focus on other peoples' faces, and body language, bringing a more human interaction, rather than a series of eyes focused on what you believe is you.
To learn how to use, and get into together mode, check out our deeper dive into managing meetings in Microsoft Teams.
Another solution that you can use is moving your monitor back or using a wireless keyboard and mouse. This is great for one-on-ones, because you can then move everyone back a little bit, and feel like you are less in their space, making it a little less intense.
No Mobility or Ability to Focus on My Own Work
Being stuck at your desk, taking Teams meeting after Teams meeting is a major cause of Zoom fatigue. You are constantly sitting, constantly talking, and never able to get to your own work. This causes stress in the way that you are not able to set time aside to get your work complete, on top of the stress of not being able to get up, and have that mobility that people desire to break up the day. When your only trip away from your desk in a day is to get your coffee and use the washroom, it can cause some issues mentally.
There are quite a few ways that you can ensure that you have time to get your work done, while not feeling overwhelmed with meetings. The main tool that Microsoft has brought out is Viva Insights (which we have quickly touched base on in the future of remote office culture with Microsoft Viva). This is a new tool that has recently been updated to help you with your mental health, and ability to focus on your personal work. To access Viva Insights, simply click your “…” in Teams, and search for “Insights”.
Once you have opened it, you are going to see a lot of well-being pieces that you can use, but for this problem, we are going to specifically look at the “Protect time” tab. Once you have opened it, they present you with a list of times that you can book for focus time. You can then select a time that you want to be able to focus, and it will automatically book in your calendar.
This also pairs really nicely with Cortana Daily Briefing emails, which helps you prepare for meetings, and stay on top of commitments. It will sift through your emails to provide you with the tasks and meetings you have coming up. If you have questions about Cortana, or how to set it up, Microsoft has a great write up.
Another quick tip to help you get away from your desk and stretch a little is scheduling your meetings to end five minutes earlier. For example, if you have a meeting from 11 to 12, then 12 to 1, you would set your meetings to 11 to 11:55, and then 12 to 12:55. This will give you a few minutes in between meetings to get up, stretch, and do anything else that you may need to do so you are not rushed into the next meeting. This also relives the pressure of clicking out of one meeting, and into another. Michael shows us how to do this here.
The last function to help make sure you can get time to complete your work is the Do Not Disturb status. This is a status you can select, that will silence the notifications for calls and messages, allowing you to really focus And get the job done. To change to Do Not Disturb, simply click your profile picture, go to status, and select Do Not Disturb.
Pro-tip: If you want to do it quickly, go into your command bar at the top and type "/dnd".
No Separation Between Work and Home
I know that I used to love my daily commute to work. It was a 20 to 30-minute walk, in which I got to put in some music, or a podcast that I have been listening to, and get to be alone. I know for some people, this is the only time that they get to unwind, and have a few moments of relaxation before they get to the chaos that is home-life, with kids, chores, sports, and everything in between.
Even if the commute wasn’t necessarily a relaxing experience, it provided a clear division between work and home that helped us mentally shift out of work mode. This has led to the Zoom burnout lifestyle, as we are not getting those few minutes to disconnect, to have to ourselves, and to give our brain that rest.
There are a few ways that we can come at the time for ourselves, or at least making sure that we are finishing work up on time and giving ourselves the time to mentally unwind before the rest of our busy lives.
Both solutions are housed within Viva Insights, the first being available right now, and the second one will be coming to you soon. The first solution is going to be in our “Protect Time” tab of Viva Insights. You will simply look beside the focus time, and see a “Wrap up and mindfully disconnect” box. You can set the days and times that you want to be reminded that it is time to wrap your day up, finish up your work, and transition to your family and personal life.
Note: If your organization hasn't rolled out Viva Insights yet, set a recurring event in your Outlook calendar to remind you that it is time to wrap up and review the day.
The second solution is your virtual commute that will soon be housed within Viva Insights. It will be rolling out later this year, but we will give you a quick intro to how it is going to work. To set up your virtual commute, you will simply go into your Viva Insights, and select the “Virtual Commute” and select the days of the week and times. This will then send you a reminder in Teams that you should start your commute. This will give you some time in the morning to set your goals, and get yourself ready for a productive workday, and will set you up for a productive workday.
The second part of it is giving you the time at the end of the day to unwind, again, transitioning to the family and personal part of your life. If you are curious about how it will work, here is a short YouTube clip from Microsoft themselves.
Stay Healthy, Stay Productive
We sometimes need to be reminded that our mental health is just as important as the productivity of each day, and the way to stay a great employee is to also take care of ourselves. We are in a very strange time, with very different challenges than we have ever seen, but Microsoft understands. They are constantly looking at ways to make our hybrid work environments both healthy and productive for everyone involved.