Episode 83: Why Zoom Meetings Are So Exhausting (Minisode)


WFH Zoom meetings leaving you beat at the end of the day? You're not alone. Iris and Lisa dive into the science behind why video calls are making us more on edge lately.


Read more:

BBC Article

TED article on Zoom fatigue

Psychology Today on how to recover


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Episode Transcript


Lisa: Iris!


Iris: Hey, Lisa.


Lisa: It's a mini-sode.


Iris: It is a mini-sode.


Lisa: It's like a goldendoodle versus a miniature goldendoodle.


Iris: That's exactly what it's like.


Lisa: It's still cute, but just less mileage.


Iris: [laughs]


Lisa: But this is, this is a mini-sode that I think is important because we do so many zoom meetings now.


Iris: Yeah, we do.


Lisa: We're really fortunate to be able to have uninterrupted work and continue working with clients and each other, and artists all over the country. But zoom calls... I was starting to feel a little crazy about how worn down I was.


Iris: I'm excited to talk about this with you because we're on very different sides of the coin.


Lisa: Go on.


Iris: Well, you hate them, and I think they're awesome.


Lisa: What do you like about zoom calls?


Iris: So there's like different kinds, you know, there's like the meetings where everyone's chatting about the same thing. And then there's like these events that we've been having, or like webinars and stuff where you can just join and turn your camera off and listen.


And it's just more intimate than like reading a blog article or, um, going to an event and like being one of a hundred people in the crowd, right? And like when you're there, you're like looking at the person presenting. So it's not necessarily more intimate than like a, a meeting in a boardroom would be, but you're one-on-one. You're like in your comfort zone. Especially for my introvert friends, you can turn your video off and everything. And it kind of lets you be like more, I dunno, more engaged, more present, more... it feels more one-on-one than like, an event would feel necessarily.


Lisa: I feel you on that.


Iris: Yeah. But for meetings and stuff, I can, I understand why it can be more of a pain.


Lisa: Yeah. Because, well, it's not a pain. However, like, as a CEO, I am in meetings constantly, it feels like. I feel like my week is one giant meeting that all just kind of blends together. But. So, so I mean, the, the thing that's been really interesting for me is my screen time has skyrocketed since COVID, like I am staring at a computer so much.


And so the reason that a lot of people... like there are some mental health issues coming out around zoom meetings right now and there are finally studies that are out -we should put a couple in the show notes - but, and it's something I think is worth addressing, which is like... If you end your day, you close your laptop or turn off your computer and you feel just drained in this new way that you didn't feel before COVID, it's because of the differences that you're encountering through zoom calls.


Iris: Yeah.


Lisa: Do you want to know what some of them are?


Iris: Yes. Tell me.


Lisa: Okay, so first of all, there are a lot, let me try... I'll try to condense this so it stays a minisode, but, um, your brain, so your brain, like when you... I know this cause I've had a lot of concussions. The number one thing you need to do when you get a concussion is not look at screens because just the act of your eyes and your brain filtering the light and the contrast and your brain having to form letters out of... out of light. You know, that is excruciatingly exhausting on your brain and your entire neurological system, which is super interesting. And so the, the increased screen time alone is like really tiring for your brain and your eyes. So that's very strenuous. So that's number one.


Iris: Versus like, being in person with people is like so human and like nourishing to your brain.


Lisa: Right. And there's an actual physical, like energetic exchange, and you can read body language and you can, um, you know, you get all these social cues that you're not getting from zoom calls. And so it's a little bit more like you have to stay on your shit more. You have to be like a little more attentive to what's going on and try to try to understand words. So.


Iris: Yeah.


Lisa: and facial expressions and like if people are doing like pretty serious faces, it's, it's harder when you can, like, you can't see their body language. And so out of context, like a stern face, this is where our friends with what we call RBF are running into problems, um…


Iris: That would be me.


Lisa: because they look pissed off when they're not and you don't get any other social cues.


Iris: Yeah.


Lisa: So that's interesting. A lot of people too are struggling with the fact that - this is hilarious. Let me try to explain it, but like when I'm in a meeting with someone, yes, I will make eye contact with them and then I will probably go over to like a presentation and then I might look at my shoes and then I might look out the window at a bird. You know, like my eyes are kind of moving around. My body is moving around. It's way more dynamic versus when you're in a zoom meeting, you're not breaking eye contact with the people on the... and it's like so unnatural where you're just like staring face to face.


And then also you're closer to your computer. So it's like a huge fucking face, you know, like face to face. Like, like it would be like if I was sitting like three feet away from my clients and never broke eye contact and was like uh “huh.”


Iris: Like, you can see all my pores somehow in my. Google Hangouts.


Lisa: It's true. I can do that. But you can't see mine because my internet's so bad. I just, you just, you see three pixels.


Iris: True. [laughs] You have very flawless skin.


Lisa: [laughs] and a nose that blends right into my face.


Iris: it's a little square and flat.


Lisa: But you know, so that's a super weird, is like the uninterrupted eye contact and it's super close. The other thing is like... you physically have to stay centered in front of your computer. You can't, like, move your body around and like, um, roll your chair around.


Iris: That's what I have a hard time with. Cause you know, I don't sit in chairs well.


Lisa: You don't, you sit like a vulture.


Iris: Yeah. I have to like move my legs all the time. And so when I'm moving on my video call, it seems like so obvious - versus like if I was just switching positions in a meeting room, like no one would even notice. But like if I straighten up or like move my legs or something like it feels so much more distracting cause it's right there in front of everyone.


Lisa: Right? And if you're doing one of the types of screens where like the person who makes noise is the one that's taking up the screen. You just randomly pop up because you like squeaked your chair.


Iris: [laughs] Yes.


Lisa: Right? So like there's that. So it's a lot of pressure to like hold a posture and hold still. So that's weird for people. And then another one is the... the need to like be well dressed and well lit.


Iris: Yeah.


Lisa: You know, if you didn't have… like, I literally ran upstairs two minutes before our meeting and like, I was like, “Oh God, my glasses!” And then I like put my contacts in and put a shirt on cause I just got done working out and I was like, okay, I got it. I gotta like do this. Um, whereas if the video was off, I could still probably, like, keep some of that flow in my day.


Iris: Yeah. Usually I like start working around like 7:30 or 8 and I'm still in my pajamas and then I like... before our meeting, I have to like stop and eat breakfast and change my clothes.


Lisa: Right. Yeah. I mean, I guess it's good to have a reason to get dressed, but…


Iris: Yeah.


Lisa: still.


Iris: What about distractions?


Lisa: Oh yeah. I mean, I think that's harder for people to, where like, they don't want to appear rude, so they're trying to make, maintain eye contact with their, the people in the videos. And then there's like distractions happening all around them.


And then that, so that's like mentally taxing, and then also people's kids and people's pets and um…


Iris: Yeah.


Lisa: I mean like, yes, it's really cute when a dog gets in a video and then all the humans chair, but at the same time, like... it's hard to balance your family and your personal life just like wandering into your screen and, um, revealing more than perhaps people want to reveal at that moment. Or like forcing more personal sharing than someone may intend, I don't know, like trying to be really sensitive to that, everyone's situations, but yeah. Um, anyway. And if you're struggling with zoom meetings, it's not, it's not just you, it's, it's the world.


Iris: Yeah. It's the nature of the beast and something that we're all getting used to.


Lisa: Yeah. And like, being able to like, hold gratitude for like, it's so awesome to have video conferences and we still did it all the time from the office, but remember we had that Owl meeting camera so that you could see everyone in the room and we tried to make it really three-dimensional. You know, but that was just such a small fraction of the day versus now, it's like the majority of my days.


Iris: Yeah. Yeah. And I feel, uh, I feel grateful for this to happen now versus like, even three years ago. Like all the tools that we have now, and we're already used to so many of these things, that it's such an easier transition, even though it's hard. Um, man, I can't imagine doing it like five years ago.


Lisa: Totally. Totally. But I don't know. I guess... just here to acknowledge the differences and talk about them and..


Iris: Yeah.


Lisa: Work them out.


Iris: and if you need to take a walk during the day - that's what I've noticed is like working from home, I need to start working earlier than I would in the office cause I need to take more breaks during the day and do something else. Like even just doing my laundry or walking to the mailbox or something like that. Like, I need refreshes during the day.


Lisa: I went mountain biking in the middle of the day yesterday, and that felt, that felt pretty incredible.


Iris: Yeah.


Lisa: Because before I wouldn't do that, I was at the office a lot.


Iris: Exactly.


Lisa: And, to be honest, I had so many meetings all the time when we were still in the office, but I often, most days I did not get a lunch break, you know? And so now it's actually been a nice forced boundary.


Iris: Yeah.


Lisa: I'm eating a lot of lunch.


Iris: Yeah. There's things that we're leaving behind from our before lives, and then there's things that we're creating now that we're going to take forward.


Lisa: That's right. So thanks for, thanks for our clients and our crew and everyone that we zoom with for being fun and social and adapting with us.


Iris: Yeah, we love you.


Lisa: Love you. Bye.


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