Tips for overcoming the strains of working virtually

September 15, 2021 Kelby Johnson

Image of a fatigued person

This article was updated on September 15, 2021 to reflect recent information and research.

[3 MIN READ]

In this article:

  • Virtual work continues to shape the lives of many employees, with pros and cons.
  • Zoom fatigue is real, but Providence has tips to alleviate the effects.
  • Remote workers need to focus on self-care every day to maintain their health and wellbeing. 

Back-to-back meetings can be physically and emotionally taxing under “normal” circumstances. From the stress of not having enough time in the day to get things done, to the need to move between conference rooms and buildings, to the productivity losses due to multi-tasking during meetings to keep up with responsibilities.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least the back-to-back schedule came with a change of scenery and some semblance of physical activity. But COVID-19 has forced millions of workers into the virtual realm, which carries with it the same (or expanded) back-to-back schedule expectations without the change of scenery – excluding creative virtual backgrounds, of course.

Employers continue to push back return-to-office dates, meaning that many employees have been working remotely now for well over a year. And for some, the change to remote working might even be permanent with many companies adopting remote only or hybrid workplace policies. 

The pros and cons of working virtually

While working virtually offers a variety of benefits, there are also many negative consequences. The career guide company, Indeed, outlined some of the pros and cons of working from home in a June 2021 article. Some of the highlights are listed below:

Pro and con list for working remotely

Between June 3–10 2020, Providence conducted a system-wide survey across seven states to understand how caregivers working across every function – from marketing to patient support to human resources – feel about working virtually.

The results suggested that many caregivers are suffering from a loosely dubbed condition called “Zoom fatigue.” Regardless of the video tool used – Microsoft Teams, Zoom, WebEx – the underlying notion of the Zoom fatigue concept is the stress and exhaustion that’s caused by a dramatic increase in using screens to connect and collaborate with peers and colleagues.

Zoom fatigue

The "Zoom fatigue" effect comes from delays in audio, focusing on lower-resolution screens for extended periods of time and low-light images of colleagues on screens. Having your own camera on and watching yourself talk also exhausts the brain as do clipped sentences, video delays and the general "who is speaking" confusion that often comes with large virtual meetings. Zoom fatigue is such a phenomenon that several neuroscientists have studied and written about the effects. 

Self-care tips for remote employees

To help caregivers and our communities address some of the symptoms of our now always-on world of virtual video meetings, Providence offered some tips for self-care and how to “fatigue proof” meetings. While you might think you've perfected virtual work life, these are good reminders to make sure fatigue doesn't pile up and to be sure you're maintaining your health during the pandemic.

The images below offer some guidance that Providence shared with its caregivers:

How to stay focused image

fight monotony image

The 20-20-20 rule for remote workers

 

Other tips to consider in addition to these are:

  • Turn off your camera in meetings when possible
  • Take phone calls for shorter conversations to give your eyes a break
  • Hide your camera screen so you aren't compelled to watch yourself

As workers across all types of businesses and functions continue to adapt to working virtually more often, it remains important for leaders to keep a pulse on how this new mode of collaboration impacts peoples’ mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

We hope you’ll find some of these tips useful. The next time you sit down in front of your screens, experiment with some of these tactics to help yourself and your colleagues.

If you're looking for additional tips to make working from home more productive and enjoyable for you or your colleagues, the professional development group Fingerprint for Success identified 50 tips to help people find work-life balance. Learn more

 

Find a doctor 

If your Zoom fatigue feels like it's lingering all day and you have questions about general wellness, you can find a doctor to discuss your concerns with our online provider directory

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Related resources 

Providence supports our caregivers’ children while they work on the frontline

Don't let your eyes deceive your: Schedule your vision screening today 

What to know about the Delta variant 

Stress and the heart: What you need to know 

 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

Kelby has spent the last five years leading the content strategy, editorial programming, and brand storytelling for Providence. He's a connector with a passion is finding the cultural and expert insights that can be turned into relevant and helpful stories that help people live happy and healthy lives.

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