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Zoom Fatigue – it’s a thing…

Posted on: Thursday, May 7, 2020 Category: Blog (58)

Your personal brand about the way you make people feel. We know that long term success comes down, in a large part, to your ability to connect with people. People buy from people, not organisations and people work for people, not organisations.

So, now we are all largely in some form of lockdown or isolation – how are we doing at connecting? How is it impacting our success and our confidence?

This current COVID-19 situation represents a monumental psychological shift.

According to the American Society of Psychology, 49% of people working from home claim the biggest hurdle is their mental health. Juggling homeschooling kids obviously adds yet another dimension.

A major struggle for many is the lack of human connection. Harvard University Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell coined the phrase “human moments” and says they are crucial to well-being. Human moments require two ingredients:

  • physical co-presence; and
  • mutual, focused attention.

How do we achieve this, when we are working in isolation (or with other members of our family) and ‘connecting’ via Zoom?

Most of us are spending increased hours in front of a screen at the moment. Even if we always worked with a computer, we are increasingly having all our meetings online, we are not travelling to and from work and many of us are probably working in makeshift unergonomic set ups. This all increases our fatigue exponentially.

Adding to this is an underlying and very common increase in anxiety. We are in uncertain times and the extensive media coverage and unique societal controls placed on us (whether we agree with them or not) lead many to experience a sense of fear, a lack of concentration or a shorter than normal fuse. This anxiety can be, for some, paralysing. Especially as we are without many of the options that increase our sense of self – human touch.

Touch is the first of our senses to develop and every normal day most of us experience some level of platonic touch, hugging a friend or shaking hands with a work colleague or new introduction. According to Professor Robin Dunbar, evolutionary psychologist from Oxford University, touch is “fundamental” to humans. It increases our endorphins, by releasing Oxycontin (the love hormone), reduces stress and improves our immunity. It connects people. A shared handshake is two people moving in the same way, it puts you on the same page, on equal footing and breaks the ice. It’s a social construct with physical and emotional benefits.

So, can we make proper connections via online platforms such as Zoom? The simple answer is, yes, but it takes a little more thought.

Some tips:

  1. Sounds obvious but turn your video on. It is exhausting to be a living headshot and you do need breaks from being on video, but when it is a meeting that matters, it is better if you ALL have your video on. Not being able to see just one person on a call is distracting and limits connection.
  2. Make eye-contact. We all have a tendency to look at ourselves on screen, but actively trying to meet the gaze of those online helps build a connection. As does things like nodding in agreement. As always – the best accessory is a genuine smile!
  3. Allow time for personal chat and connection. If not everyone knows each other, proper introductions are important and idle chat matters. Make it personal.
  4. Have a facilitator – or someone who knows it’s their role to keep the conversation active. Sometimes, especially when there is any sort of lag, online conversations can be stilted and awkward. Someone needs to know that, in this call, they will manage that.
  5. Have empathy. This is about acknowledging the fear or uncertainty we are all experiencing. It doesn’t need to be dwelt on, but some people are struggling more than others and acknowledging the elephant in the room helps.
  6. Be aware of your body language. Too much fidgeting or nervous touching of your face, twirling your hair or crossing your arms is distracting and limits your ability to be present.
  7. Think about your listening face. At BNY, we talk about the importance of reducing the tension in your mouth and having your mouth open (just a little bit). An open mouth keeps an open connection.
  8. Be aware of computer microphones and try and keep your voice in your body. Often computer microphones make your voice a little higher pitched and so speaking with a diaphragm voice makes you easier to listen to and to trust.
  9. Think of your physical environment and what people can see behind you. You can use this as a means to make a connection. As I write this I am essentially sitting in my wardrobe. For some calls that doesn’t matter, they like to see my clothes! For others filtering my background is more appropriate and professional.

Even the most extroverted amongst us can be worn down by the high intensity of virtual connection and that’s before we have even started to think about how it impacts our productivity and our mood.

The good news – is that laughter produces the same endorphins as touch. So does collective dance. So, look on a light side and if in doubt, dance!


Our ability to connect with others is what enables great brands and great people to become successful. This is because people buy from people; not from organisations. People work for people; they don’t work for organisations.

In an increasingly globally competitive environment, your key competitive differentiator is your ability to connect and leave a lasting impression on those you meet.

8 Steps to a Brand New You is an 8-step course that aims to develop your understanding of what makes an impactful personal brand, how to recognise and create your marketable difference, and how to translate this in a manner that helps you out compete your competition. Click here to find out more.

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