November 2, 2020

Onboarding In The Time of COVID-19 (Week 3)

Onboarding In The Time of COVID-19 (Week 3)


Hey everyone! It's been a few weeks since Cameron and I have posted and that was mainly due to our quarter end at Red Hat. It's always fun when you move to a new quarter because it helps show how good or bad a company is doing. However, that is not the point of this post so let's move on to this week’s topic which is Zoom fatigue and how to deal with it.

As I am sure most of you know Zoom is a web conferencing tool and the idea behind “Zoom fatigue” centers around spending all day on video calls and feeling tired or weary with constantly looking at a screen all day. In the past our days were made up of a combination of online and in person meetings as well as social interactions at water coolers or in the break room. However, with COVID a lot of that social interaction has moved online. This is where zoom fatigue comes in, we as workers no longer have that disconnect where we can go talk to someone in their cubicle or office.

If I want to ask Cameron a question I have to either message him or set up a web call and something about that is just exhausting. There is no fluidity to web calls. One person speaks and then waits for the other person to speak. In larger calls one person speaks while the entire group listens. It makes having any sort of conversation difficult. There is the constant worry of cutting someone off, being on mute, having your webcam on or off. It’s just, for lack of a better term, fatiguing. Just thinking about it right now is making my eyes heavy and I dread having to jump on my afternoon calls.

Now let’s add in the fact that conferences are going virtual too so those safe havens of social  interaction are being transformed to day long video calls. Even our personal lives have web calls, my family used to have a weekly call but it was exhausting to spend a day on calls only to have one happen in our personal lives. I just signed up for a virtual movie tour that will showcase my favorite ski movie release.

If planned correctly you could go an entire week without having to actually look at another human being unless it's through a screen, and while I hate to say it, things do not look like they will be changing any time soon. So how can you combat Zoom fatigue? Is there anyway out of this endless cycle of web calls? Well look no further, Cameron and I have some tips that we use to combat it and hopefully you will be able to add them into your repertoire to make your days more energizing.

Tip 1: Move!

Personally one of the most fatiguing things for me is the same scenery when I am on Zoom calls. I am always in my office staring at my screen which is up against the same boring window. I find moving around throughout the day is really helpful. One of the best moves you can make is to get outside for a bit (obviously if your wifi allows it). Wherever you choose to move make sure to mute your mic or to have some great active noise cancelling headphones if you are planning on speaking. If you have a cellular plan that allows for a mobile hotspot then go to a local coffee shop or a park. I can’t, in good faith, recommend you use coffee shop wifi unless you have a strong VPN and you understand the dangers of public wifi. It's really easy to fall into a routine of going to the same place to work everyday but changing things up can help keep you energized and reduce the zoom fatigue.

Tip 2: Make a Stand

One other tip that can definitely help is to change position at your desk. Don’t always sit, sometimes it helps to stand or even kneel when on constant calls all day. I won’t dive too much into the negatives of sitting all day but let’s just say it's not great to sit all day. Even if you don’t have a standing desk you can stack boxes or move to a higher counter just to get that change in position. It will definitely help in the long run with reducing fatigue.

The bottom line with surviving this crazy transition is to focus heavily on your mental health. Do what feels best for you and reach out to trusted people to talk about how you are feeling. Bottling everything up will not help and communicating will definitely help you learn new things or justify how you are currently working as the right way to do something. I will pass it over to Cam but feel free to leave feedback on what works best for you, I am always open to new tips that someone can provide. Over to you Cam, have a great week everyone!


Hey gang, Cody already laid out the problem with Zoom fatigue so I’ll continue adding to the tips that I've picked up over the last few months.

Tip 3: The Shorter the Better

Here’s the thing, the shorter the meeting the less fatiguing.  Crazy, right?  So make that an effort.  When you schedule a meeting try for 15 minutes instead of 30 minutes.  Make it clear at the beginning you have a hard stop at the end and can’t go over.  You will be shocked how productive people will be when you give them a time restraint.  Usually if you schedule an hour people will naturally try to fill the hour even when they don’t need to.  Likewise if you schedule 15 minutes people will cut to the point much quicker sparing you and your attention span.  If you do need more time, schedule it, no big deal.

Tip 4:  Schedule Earlier

As the day goes on and the coffee wears off it gets more and more difficult to stay focused.  This may not be true for you but it is me.  I’d rather schedule six calls before noon than three in the morning and three in the afternoon.  If you haven’t tried it you’ll be shocked at how much easier it will be to knock out meetings first thing in the morning and get the action items that came out of them done over the rest of the day.

Tip 5: A Zoom Call Should Be a Sprint not a Marathon

Do you know why that Zoom call you were on was so boring that you looked up cute cat pics halfway through and stopped taking notes?  It is because you weren’t that needed in the call.  There are some calls where you are needed as a listener but they are fewer than you think.  Ideally you should be actively involved in the conversation every couple minutes at a minimum.  If you’re not then maybe look into having your part condensed to the beginning so you can get off the call early.  If you aren’t driving the conversation then you probably aren’t that necessary to it.

Tip 5: Meeting Day is Better than Meeting Week

You know all those recurring calls you have week to week?  Put them all on the same day, preferably back to back in the morning or if you have to, over two different days.  It sounds exhausting (and it can be) but knowing it is “meeting day” helps you shift your mind into that kind of work flow.   Transitioning in and out of meeting mode can be more stressful in the end especially when it is drawn out over multiple days.

In The End the Key is This:

your mind needs to be engaged or your attention will suffer.  That is why Zoom calls can be so exhausting. You are constantly willing your mind to focus on something it doesn’t feel as engaged by.  When you are in person it is way more engaging simply because it is in person.  You see people in 3 dimensions.   You notice their voice inflections easier and even what their fashion style is.  A thousand tiny things that keep you interested,  things your mind does without you thinking that keeps your focus where you want it to be.  In the Zoom void many of those are taken away from us.  We must realize it isn’t about forcing ourselves to focus, this isn’t about willpower or work ethic.  It is about framing Zoom calls in the right way to make your mind naturally want to focus on them.