A few weeks ago, I was completely burnt out by the number of video chat sessions I had back to back. Given the requirement to socially distance at home, it’s been nice to build deeper connections. But I underestimated just how much I was able to handle. And quickly learned that I needed to cool it and set some boundaries.
You see, the difference is that with a video chat session you’re essentially inviting the person into your home. Your personal space. Unlike when we go out and meet up, we have the opportunity to go home and recharge afterward. We can anticipate getting together. We set a date, find a location, commute there, and can essentially juice up our social battery beforehand.
Video chats can sometimes be a little more spontaneous, go on for a lot longer than we intended, and require you to be 100% engaged. Now, there’s nothing wrong with connecting, especially during this time. But if you’re not someone who’s used to scheduling multiple get-togethers, on multiple days a week, back to back, then it may be time to scale back on the video chats, because Zoom Fatigue is very real.
According to Harvard Business Review, one of the most depleting aspects of video calls is that we have to engage in “constant gaze” and look directly at the camera for most of it. This can cause us to feel uncomfortable, and tired. And without the visual breaks we need to refocus, our brains experience fatigue.
Also, with everyone knowing we’re all “just at home” it can be tough to decline invitations. And you may say to yourself, you have nothing better to do. But you do, and that’s allowing yourself to rest. So, how do we reset those boundaries?
One of the reasons I haven’t gotten tired of my Friday virtual happy hour sessions is that we’ve planned it ahead of time. It’s something I anticipate, prepare for, and look forward to. We have it at the same time on the same day each week so I can mentally gear myself up for attendance.
Also, prior to COVID, my best friend Natalie, and I already had a running weekly face time catch-up session. We got tired of the runaround and cancellations and just picked a day, time, and stuck to it. Now, it’s second nature and I look forward to it.
Sporadic video calls in the middle of the day, or while you’re watching your favorite show can be annoying, and daunting. So, for those folks you do want to prioritize catching up with, make a plan.
Make it a group thing.
Another thing that makes our virtual happy hours more appealing is that there’s a group of us in attendance. With 6 people on, you can easily take mental breaks. Allow others to speak, step away, and use the restroom, look out the window, check your phone, grab some food, and so forth. You aren’t forced to be 100% engaged the entire time.
Also, this consolidates the number of video chats you’ll have to schedule if you catch up with multiple people at once.
Suggest another method of communication.
When it comes to work and Zoom Fatigue, that may be a little tougher to avoid. I get it, some of our bosses like to micromanage, and by being on a video chat they sometimes feel more in control of how you’re spending your day. But, if you can, it’s okay to suggest other methods of checking in.
Instead of scheduling multiple video meetings, see if they’re open to you sending comprehensive updates via e-mail, or a quick debrief over the phone. Your home is your sanctuary, and it’s important to be proactive about setting clear boundaries that essentially help you to be more productive.
Keep it short.
Know when to call it. If you find yourself or the other person racking your brains for things to talk about, just politely end the conversation. A lot of times because we’re staring directly at someone, we feel bad about cutting the conversation short. But the truth is, you should be building meaningful connections, not just staying on to show face. Literally and figuratively!
Allow yourself to accept that the conversation has run its course and get off the phone. There will always be another time to catch up again in the future.
If all else fails, the best response is a simple no. I’ve had to do it twice and although it may have been a little uncomfortable at the moment, I felt much better afterward.
A friend of mine asked about doing a virtual happy hour catch up, and at the time I had my usual happy hour, a video chat with another friend, two work-related video sessions, and my virtual therapy session that week. I had to decline and suggest we do it another week. I was open and honest with her about the fact that I was feeling a little burnt out from video chat sessions and would feel much better if we scheduled for another time. And she was completely okay with it.
On the other hand, a friend of mine face-timed me without giving any heads up in the middle of the day during the week. I saw it, but I didn’t answer because I was in the middle of working. I reached out to them later about it, but didn’t drop what I was doing to engage. It was important that I maintained those boundaries.
Your peace of mind is so, so important. And if you’d like to show up in the world as your most vibrant and engaged self, it’s necessary to prioritize recharging that battery. Give yourself permission to set boundaries.