A lot has been written in the past year about Zoom fatigue. There are many explanations given for why Zoom meetings are exhausting for people, as well as suggestions for how to handle this optical and mental fatigue.
It’s not obligatory to suffer from Zoom fatigue, of course. If you think back over your remote work experience, there are likely workdays where things went so well that you found yourself energized by the end of the day, rather than worn down.
The way you think about Zoom meetings may influence your feeling about the meetings you attend. An easy way to see this is by analogy to sports.
My first year in college, I was on the crew team. We spent the entire academic year learning to row and getting in shape for the racing season in the Spring. One week, the women’s team was racing on a weekend when the men’s team wasn’t, so I rode my bicycle down to the river to cheer them on. Both teams practiced out of the same facility, so I had many friends on the women’s team. I sat on the bank by the starting line and cheered the start of each race. Then, rode my bike to the midpoint, cheered some more, and then to the finish line and cheered each boat home.
At some point, I realized that I had ridden my bike the length of several grueling crew races and had done it faster than the boats themselves went. I happened to see one of my assistant coaches by the finish line and commented that it seemed like an exercise in futility that we spent an entire year training only to have eight rowers move a boat slower than I could ride my bike.
He said that sport isn’t about getting to a particular place fast. It is about putting constraints on human performance and then seeing how well people can excel within those constraints.
People who engage in sports don’t generally focus on the futility of engaging in an activity that is done within a set of rules. Instead, they experience the ups and downs that come with the challenge of dealing with the sport.
And Zoom fatigue may operate the same way. The pandemic has created constraints on human performance right now. For safety reasons, you cannot get together in groups the way you did before COVID-19. If you focus on the constraints (including Zoom), then you experience fatigue and fatalism that are like my questioning the point of training to row at all.
But, if you focus on your ability to excel in the face of constraints, then Zoom is just a tool that is part of the rules of the game. Rather than being fatigued by the game, you can focus on the challenge of creating excellence within the rules of that game. And, when you do that, you are mostly going to experience the ups and downs associated with the success of what you’re able to accomplish, rather than the fatigue of being in a game you’d rather not be playing.