STILL feeling wiped-out after a day of virtual calls?

woman remote working on video conference callMy clients continue to tell me how tired and spaced-out they feel after a day of virtual meetings.  There’s a lot of advice out there about how to counter-act ‘zoom fatigue’ but not much of it seems to make a difference. 

In fact it’s much easier than you think – if you just follow your senses!

The general lethargy (and aches and pains) come about because we’re not using our five senses in the way that we do in ‘normal’ real life face to face meetings.  We’re using our vision, hearing and even our touch and smell in a way that we don’t in ‘usual’ meetings.

Here are some tips and remedies that will easily and quickly revive your senses.

Sight:  this is the obvious one.  Eyes are not designed to focus on one distance, plus when we look at a screen we forget to blink.  In normal use, we blink about 15-20 times a minute.  Blinking is important as it distributes moisture around the eyes.  Looking at a screen means that we blink less than half this number of times and when that happens, our eyes feel scratchy and dry.  Staring fixedly and forgetting to blink are both unnatural and tiring for our eyes.  Plus, digital screens emit blue light which have been shown to contribute to eye strain.

  • Remember 20/20/20: for every 20 minutes of looking at a screen, look at something 20 feet (or 6 metres) away or 20 seconds
  • Put a post-it note on your screen reminding yourself to blink (next to the one by your camera reminding you to smile!)
  • Use moisturising eye drops at the beginning of the day before your eyes start to hurt.
  • Turn down the brightness of your screen to reduce glare and consider using blue light reducing glasses.
  • Make sure the room where you’re working is well lit, with neither too much contrast between the ambient light and your screen nor too little. Neither are good for the eyes.
  • As opticians reopen, make an appointment for a check-up if your eyes continue to feel uncomfortable, your vision is blurry or you’re getting headaches.

Touch: just as we tend to stare at a screen during a call, we tend to get physically static too.  We remain still so that we stay within camera range and don’t look fidgety.  This leads to stiffness and shoulder and neck problems if we hunch.  Our work set-ups at home tend not be as ergonomically designed as a workstation in a proper office.

  • Consciously make time for a break in between calls and move around. Don’t book back to back virtual calls.
  • Don’t automatically schedule a meeting for a virtual platform. A client I know well sent me a zoom invite.  I asked why – we both know what we look like!  Use your mobile so that you can go for a walk outside at the same time or stand up while you ‘walk and talk’ at home.
  • As lockdown eases, it will become possible to access massages, Alexander Lessons and physio for any back problems you’ve been dealing with. There are also some good stretch classes online.
  • Change your posture; sit further away from the screen or position your screen at an angle.
  • Do this quick technique to pep yourself up. Form each hand into a cup.  Starting at the bottom of your legs, cup both hands briskly up one leg to the top of your thigh, then up the other leg.  Cup all the way up one arm from your wrist to your shoulder, and then up other arm.  Cup from the top of your thighs to your heart and then down from your shoulders to your heart.  Cup any part of your sides and back that you can reach.  When you’ve finished you should feel wider awake and slightly tingling.

Hearing: our ears are not designed to have earphones in them all day.  This can lead to soreness or even to tinnitus if you’re listening to loud music for extended periods of time.

  • If you need to use earphones to protect the confidentiality of the call from others in your home, alternate between in-ear and over-ear models
  • Invest in an external microphone and speakers so that the audio quality is improved for both incoming and outcoming sound, reducing the need for headphones.

Smell: what have our noses got to do with ‘Zoom fatigue’?   Being stuck inside on virtual calls all day can make a room feel stale – and most of us don’t have the air con that we might have in our usual offices.   As a result we can feel jaded and lethargic.  Here’s how to freshen things up.

  • Now summer is here, have a vase of scented flowers nearby – plus they will look great in the zoom shot behind you.
  • Open a window to get better air circulation
  • Use room reeds or a spritz-type air conditioner that are made from pure botanical essences such as Neom, Australian Bush Flower Remedies or Aura Soma.
  • Alternatively use the pure oil with an oil burner. Peppermint and the citrus family are good energy boosters, sandalwood is said to help with focus, while rose and chamomile can help to relax and reduce anxiety.  Always buy pure aromatherapy oils from a reputable supplier and check with them for compatibility if you’re pregnant or have an underlying health condition.

Taste: this is another sense that doesn’t appear to have an obvious connection – but it’s easy to get dehydrated when zooming due to cognitive stress and sensory overload.   There’s a lot going on when we’re making virtual call – and most of it’s stressful.  In addition to any anxiety in connection with the content of the call, our personal context or the global situation, there may be tech-angst when we get a bad connection or can’t work out how to share our screen.  Most people find it stressful to watch themselves on screen as well as watching all the other bobbing heads.  In addition there is the physiological stress of engaging all our senses in less than optimum ways, our emotional intelligence is working overtime because we can’t pick up on all the helpful body language clues we would if we were in the same room, and we’re also home schooling, or shielding and supporting others.   Not surprising then that many of us continue to feel a bit overwhelmed.  As 75% of our brains are water, even a drop of 2% has a detrimental effect on brain functions such as memory, attention span, our ability to focus and to make decisions.

  • Have a jug thermos of either hot or chilled water on your desk and aim to finish it by the end of the day.  Adding fresh mint, lemon, ginger or cucumber gives it some zest.
  • Cleaning your teeth is amazingly quick and refreshing – and easy to forget to do when we’re not ‘leaving for work’
  • Snack on juicy food such as cucumber, carrots, apples and all the lovely soft summer fruit that’s coming into season.

It’s a truism that to say we need to look after ourselves and easy to forget to do so when we’re so busy.  At the moment, though, it’s even more important and doing a check through of your senses is an easy reminder.

Wendy RoseAbout the author

Wendy Rose specialises in supporting senor leaders and business owner during times of personal, professional and organisational change.  She has been working in the UK and globally for 20 years and is an accredited ICF MasterCoach.



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