We are all feeling Zoom fatigue – maybe it’s time to take a break.
One thing we can say for certain is that Zoom has been the saving grace of this pandemic. It has allowed us to continue to live a somewhat normal life whether that is studying, working, or socialising. However, over a year on, many of us are suffering from so-called Zoom fatigue and are in desperate need of both in-person contact and time away from the screen. Citigroup, an American investment bank, has become one of the first companies to urge their staff to limit internal video calls on Friday, in an initiative that has been named Zoom-free Friday, to promote a healthier and more balanced professional lifestyle. With the pandemic still very much in full force, even if the situation is improving slightly thanks to the vaccine, it is evident that this concept should be employed by organisations worldwide to simply make us feel even just a little bit happier.
Friday office celebrations are far from a new concept, as workers roll in the weekend after another long week’s work. Many offices are feeling the fatigue and stress of remote working and a severe lack of contact hours, therefore, this day off from all things Zoom can only increase productivity moving into the new financial year. After all, people during the pandemic are working longer and harder.
According to The New York Times, research has discovered that the stresses of the pandemic and increased workloads have led to many employees spending as much as two hours more a day in the “office” than before. The trouble is also increased as video calls cause a greater mental strain as there is a clear lack of non-verbal communications, and thus more effort must be put in to interpret these communications, increasing the cognitive load as mental calories are being burned to respond appropriately. Where a simple, casual nod would signify an agreement in a boardroom, over Zoom an exaggerated head movement or thumbs up would be required to serve the same purpose.
Through the pandemic, the lines between work and leisure have been blurred as technology and video calls consume our day-to-day lives. For decades now, the health disadvantages of an office job have been highlighted in the media and brought to our attention. From experience, sitting stalk still in front of a screen for three to four hours with no breaks on Zoom meetings or tutorials really takes its toll on the body and mind. It’s the trying to remain focused when surrounded by distractions and not fidgeting, all whilst maintaining good posture and not damaging your eyesight in the process.
Before Covid-19, our leisure activities would more often or not involve some form of exercise, in my case in the gym or swimming pool, or socialising with friends in cafés, clubs or bars. However, these have yet again been taken over by another screen, whether that is FaceTimes with friends or watching Netflix, further adding to the stress of an unhealthy lifestyle. Restrictions are now being slowly lifted, and the opportunities to separate work and leisure are becoming greater. Reducing video calls and even completely taking a step back from them for just one day per week can have a massive positive impact on both your mental and physical health. It provides a chance to meet people in person, get some fresh air, and unwind from technology.
While one day Zoom-free will hardly make a dent in the reduction of Zoom stress, it is a step in the right direction to improving both mental and physical health and the impact of the pandemic on our lives. It is important to find the equilibrium between work and play and discover the secret to relaxation to get ourselves back on track as we begin to leave the work-at-home lifestyle at home again. It is true the pandemic has changed the way that we operate on both a social and professional level – but we must remember that this is not the only way we know. There was a life before, and will be a life after, Covid-19.