Working in tech means navigating a ton of screen time which has increased even more since meetings that have shifted to platforms like Zoom. Remote work experts weigh in on how to maintain sanity and remote work-life balance.
Developers, engineers, and others who work in the tech industry have reported elevated stress and anxiety levels since the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey from Unify Square, which supports Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack showed tech employees are three times more stressed than those who work in other industries. A majority of these respondents revealed that their stress levels increased since transitioning to remote work.
As the world adapts to a post-pandemic work structure, the question of workplace wellness and mental health has become a growing concern. Companies - whether they are converting to remote work or are native remote companies - are seeking ways to help remote employees avoid burnout. Within the tech industry, however, this may seem like a daunting task.
What is Zoom Fatigue?
Cyberpsychologist, Brenda K. Wiederhold researched the use of virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and found that the number of users increased by over 200 million since the pandemic began. This rapid shift to remote work and meeting virtually has caused a new phenomenon called "Zoom fatigue." This specific form of emotional exhaustion can cause irritability, lethargy, anxiety, and impact both health and productivity.
Tarin Calmeyer is the founder of Remote Team Wellness, a virtual corporate wellness company that works with organizations, including Facebook, to incorporate effective work and wellness strategies. Calmeyer has observed that additional collaboration tools and the need to be present on-screen for meetings are especially impactful for technicians whose work already relies exclusively on screen time.
Business Insider reported on a survey of 3,023 tech employees from Big Tech. Close to 70% of them are feeling more burned out than they did pre-pandemic. Some of the factors for this increase in Zoom fatigue among the tech workforce include at-home distractions, lack of delineation between work and home, and connectivity issues that contribute to increased burnout and feelings of tech-specific mental fatigue.
3 Ways to Combat Zoom Fatigue
On the other side of remote work - especially for people in tech - is the freedom to create your schedule, work from anywhere, and access jobs that otherwise wouldn’t be geographically accessible. Build Remote, an online resource for remote teams, keeps a tally of all of the major companies that have permanently transitioned to remote work including JP Morgan, Twitter, Verizon, and Capital One. Given this significant change, it will become increasingly important for all remote employees to center their mental health so that the benefits of remote work outplay any risks.
Carolina Jacob, HR Lead at Virtasant, had some helpful tips for technologists who are overwhelmed by screen time, Zoom meetings, and changing expectations post-pandemic.
Set Expectations and Limit Camera Use.
Jacob suggests setting expectations before the meeting begins and says to be strategic.“Given Zoom fatigue, we need to understand that someone that comes to our meeting might have been in other meetings before ours or might not always feel comfortable on camera given that we still share our home offices with family members”. Instead, managers should encourage their direct reports to have cameras on for particular meetings like one on ones, but also should ask when would be a good time to do so.
Take Breaks Often.
Jacob shares that within the tech space, many follow the Pomodoro Technique where individuals take a five-minute break every 25 minutes. After doing this four times, technicians should reward themselves with a 30-minute break.
Discuss Mental Health.
Organizations and managers should encourage employees to talk about their mental health. Employees should reach out to their direct managers to discuss and find ways to work on this collaboratively, especially if it's affecting their productivity. Jacob states that managers should work closely with HR, if needed, to find ways to support the employee in their well-being. If employees are working on solutions to address their mental health concerns, it is a good idea to share this with their manager as well. This shouldn’t be a one-time conversation Jacob says. “It is important to maintain open communication with the manager, keeping them in the loop of progress and setbacks."
With drastic changes to work culture and the increasing demand for remote work, it is imperative to be aware of mental and emotional health. Individual wellness among tech employees impacts the wellness of businesses.
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