Being tired of Zoom (or Teams or Facetime or Hangouts) is not just being weary of connecting through those platforms; it is actual exhaustion brought on by the higher level of effort needed to communicate through our devices.
Prior to the pandemic, most communication was face-to-face, which comes to us naturally – so natural that we understand others without even working at it – but it carries signals that no other communication method can even hope to convey.
Body language, distance, approach, verbal inflection, eye contact (or not), gestures and multiple combinations of these traits cannot be transmitted through the Internet. It is difficult to generate the energy to channel the true meaning, feeling, import and power of our message through our WiFi connection. Communicating this way is truly exhausting.
Educators teaching in the hybrid model face additional challenges. In teaching to two audiences, educators expend additional energy conveying lessons they have taught others with ease for years, adding to the additional stress we all feel these days.
Following are some ideas on relieving the stress and diminishing the exhaustion associated with these current methods of communication. Some are pertinent to a conference or meeting type session, some for the hybrid classroom scenario and others that can provide relief for either.
Change your position: Stand if you have been seated for 20 minutes; sit if you have been on your feet. Find ways to bend limbs and your back (turn off the camera to do some stretching). Squeeze a tennis ball or hand exerciser off camera. Take off your shoes and flex your toes and feet. Do anything within reason to move your body, alter your position, change the pressure contact points. Movement will keep you from being stiff, sore and uncomfortable.
Seating and lighting: As with any task in a seated position, the better the seat, the better the task. Make sure that your chair is ergonomically correct, especially at the right height for your physical size and work surface. Consider making changes to how your back is supported with pillows, pads or lumbar-specific furniture. Once you are comfortable and properly supporting and maintaining your correct posture, adjust your technology to match. If possible, reduce the overhead fluorescent lighting and add cooler lighting on your work surface by using table lamps and daylight bulbs.
Personal comfort: Certainly, you need to follow the dress code of your school or organizations but choose comfortable clothing to meet those requirements. Wear comfortable shoes and casual clothing. Make sure your space is at a comfortable temperature and that your clothing matches that environment.
Select the right platform: While meetings with large groups need to take place on a shared video platform, not all meetings require that technology. If the situation allows, consider using email and associated attachments to share information or documentation rather than conducting a Zoom session. If the meeting is designed for a group of two to four people, Facetime or a conference call can be used. And for two-person communication, texting or actual phone conversations require less effort and reduce the stress level.
Stay in the moment: Being in front of your computer tempts everyone to complete other technology tasks. Don’t multitask outside of what is needed for your session. Stay focused on what is being discussed and only use the chat to communicate details related to the meeting. Don’t flip over to another program to send emails or complete other projects. Use the platform’s feature to keep the active speaker full screen to concentrate on the discussion and avoid watching everyone else – and their pets and children – in their little boxes.
Focus on the technology: Using audio devices such as headphones, headset or earbuds can have multiple benefits. They allow you to be more mobile so you can stretch your legs and move your body without losing out on the discussion. These devices also ensure that you will hear everyone clearly. By using the microphone on the headset, your contributions to the discussion will be clear and understood by everyone else. You can also add a webcam to increase the area covered by the camera – and better light your space – to allow more freedom of movement and more control.
Open up the classroom: Especially for individuals who are teaching and zooming at the same time, a second device such as an iPad, tablet or smartphone is helpful. The second device can be adjoined to the session and positioned so that more of the classroom is included for students at home. Turn the microphone off on your primary device, activate the mic on your portable device, and have your remote students set their views to follow the speaker. This will allow you to move around the room (if allowed) and include more of the in-class students’ discussion.
If your class presentation includes a long video, consider having the in-class students join the session and listen on their own headphones or earbuds. They will enjoy your presentation more and get more out of it, viewing it clearly on their own screen and hearing every word.
There are so many reasons to feel fatigued these days, and being exhausted sometimes makes the challenges we all face every day seem insurmountable. Since the use of Zoom, Teams and Google Hangouts will likely be used for the foreseeable future, making small changes in how we use those platforms during our many online sessions will not reduce the mountains in front of us, but should provide more energy to make those climbs possible.
Steffen Parker has worked with computers since the mid-70s and has been a Macintosh user since its introduction in 1984. Serving as an IT support person for the Vermont Principals’ Association and the Information Support Specialist for Vermont’s Lamoille North Supervisory Union, Parker supports computer use for adults working in education, administration, finance and publication including the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee where he also serves as the Performing Arts representative.