Meme of a cat with eyes half closed resting its chin on a keyboard. Caption reads: me attending a Zoom meeting at 8:30 in the morning.

“Zoom fatigue” is a real thing – it comes from the additional cognitive load imposed by trying to parse interpersonal interactions in a space where you can’t see a person’s full body and other physical cues that you get during in-person meetings. (1)

Here are some simple but effective ways to minimize Zoom fatigue:

  • Change your settings so that you can’t see yourself (you don’t really look like the Emperor from Star Wars, and it’s stressful to feel like you do)
  • Shut down other apps and browser tabs so that you’re not tempted to multitask
  • Build breaks into your schedule so that you can get up and move around
  • Set up your camera so that it shows more than just your face, and ask others on the call to do the same. The more of your body is viewable, the more interpersonal signals others will be able to see
  • Switch to audio periodically, and allow your students to do so as well whenever they need to
  • Add a profile picture to your Zoom or Champlain Google account; this will display when your camera is off

If you’re worried that allowing students to participate by audio only will make them “check out” of class, you can always use active-learning techniques like polls or chat to keep them engaged. (Allowing students to move to audio as needed also protects their privacy and dignity if they’re in a place they don’t feel comfortable sharing on screen.)

Likewise, moving to audio makes it possible for you and your students to get up and move around if they want to. This seems trivial, but it isn’t! Too little physical movement has been an unpleasant side effect of the pandemic for many and is leading to health problems.

As a plus, along with the health benefits of moving around, “walking meetings”, even if they’re just walking around everyone’s respective home offices, can be better for fostering connection than face-to-face seated meetings. (2)

(1) See “Zoom Fatigue is Real. Here’s Why You’re Feeling It” (Northeastern University), “Here’s Why You’re Feeling Zoom Fatigue” (Forbes), “Coronavirus Zoom Fatigue is Taxing the Brain. Here is Why” (National Geographic), “Why Zoom Video Chats Are So Exhausting” (BBC)

(2) See “Walking Helps Us Think” (The New Yorker), “How to Do Walking Meetings Right” (Harvard Business Review)

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