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What Zoom Fatigue Can Teach Us Moving Forward
March 30, 2021 at 4:00 AM
two people meeting with iphone and ipad

Over the past year, much of the world became familiar with Zoom fatigue, that sense of stimulus overload that leaves you feeling unusually drained after a series of meetings or a long day.

It feels a little like driving on under-inflated tires. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s far from the optimal condition.


Post-pandemic, as we move toward a hybrid of in-office and remote work, in-person and remote communication we should have less Zoom fatigue. But merely leaving Zoom fatigue behind with the pandemic is a missed opportunity, an opportunity to learn from a situation and shape our approach to the future with what we learned.

Here are the basic things Zoom fatigue taught us:

    • Don’t schedule back to back meetings with no breaks
    • Don’t sit for too long in the same place
    • Move more
    • Avoid multi-tasking
    • Be present
    • Make meetings shorter and don’t let them expand to fill time
    • Find ways to make people feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations
    • Don’t turn everything into a meeting. Sometimes an email is enough

All eight of those insights are valuable tools to carry into the future—regardless of where you are meeting (or declining a meeting) in person or in a virtual space.

But Zoom fatigue has taught us one more thing that you may have overlooked. Be present with all of your senses.

The Virtual Space

In the virtual space we use for the most part only 40-percent of our senses: sight and sound.

We don’t use touch. We don’t use smell. We don’t use last. And we suffer for those absences. Our bodies crave using all of our senses.

Once fully vaccinated and making sure others are comfortable, take the time to really feel your next handshake. Pay attention to the touch of another person’s skin on yours. Pay attention to what you feel: strength, comfort, nervousness. In a business setting, touch is, well, a touchy thing. The cardinal rule is you never want to make anyone feel uncomfortable with you touching them. But for the most part, a handshake is still completely acceptable way of interacting, of introducing, or concluding. Fist bumps, high fives, etc. are all variations on a theme and more situational and relationally relevant than a classic handshake.

Be smart. Be appropriate. But be aware of the power of touch. The pandemic deprived most of us of that simple, human interaction and that absence added to our fatigue.

Smell and taste play an important role too. Walking into a meeting and smelling freshly brewed coffee is a luxury. Tasting a piece of cantaloupe from a fruit tray is a simple pleasure. Even if you don’t prefer coffee and cantaloupe you get the idea.

Moving Forward

As we move forward, keep in mind that we are far more than carriers of information in and out of meetings. We are human beings who feel more fully present, more fully engaged, more fully present when we engage all of our senses.

If you are running meetings, consider ways to get everyone’s full set of senses involved, whether that is putting candles or bagels in the room. You decide. If you are attending meetings, ask if you can bring something that will help engage everyone. No one ever minds the person who brings freshly sliced kiwi or a couple of Granny Smith apples to share at a meeting.

We all want to feel more alive after what we have gone through.

Take the lessons of Zoom fatigue with you into the future.

  • Hold fewer meetings
  • Hold shorter meetings
  • Get all five senses involved—not just sight and sound
  • After you engage, give yourself time to recharge
  • Say no to meetings that should be emails
  • Shake hands when appropriate and feel human connection not just intellectual transaction

The future won’t look like the recent past. For that I imagine we’re all grateful, but that doesn’t mean the future can’t be a better experience thanks to what we have learned in the recent past.