During the pandemic, the amount of screen time for many people working and learning from home as well as binge-watching TV has sharply increased. And prolonged screen time is leaving a series of maladies in its wake. Researchers at Arizona State University published a study showing that heavy screen users—defined as those who use screens an average of 17.5 hours per day—reported the least healthful dietary patterns and the poorest health-related characteristics compared with moderate and light users, who averaged roughly 11.3 and 7 hours of screen use per day, respectively.
Screen apnea is another side effect of prolonged screen use in which users temporarily hold their breath or have shallow breathing while working (or playing) in front of screens. Screen apnea can lead to serious stress-related illnesses and compromise work productivity.
Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is a condition in which you experience eye symptoms such as eye strain, redness or blurred vision from prolonged computer screen exposure.
Zoom fatigue and burnout in which screen time saps your energy and focus might just be the most pervasive of all with incidences popping up for legions of people spending hours on end remote working, practicing telemedicine or taking online classes. Zoom burnout impedes your mental and physical health and compromises career success over the long haul.
What Is Zoom Burnout?
The World Health Organization describes burnout as, “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Three symptoms can help you recognize it: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”
According to a recent study I reported on for Forbes.com, the more severe your burnout, the more stressed you are at work and the more difficult it is for you to fulfill your professional obligations. You suffer from exhaustion. You have a deep sense of disillusionment and hopelessness that your efforts have been in vain. Life loses its meaning, and small tasks feel like a hike up Mount Everest. Your interests and motivation dry up, and you fail to meet even the smallest work obligations.
Practices To Mitigate Zoom Burnout
“If this year has shown us anything, it’s that we’re never going back to the way things were–and that Zoom is the new office,” said Arianna Huffington, Founder and CEO of Thrive Global. “Now that we’re all spending hours each day on Zoom, we need to create new rituals and practices within Zoom Meetings to prevent virtual fatigue.”
Scientists have identified several actions you can take to mitigate the harmful effects of Zoom burnout and maximize your energy, job performance and workday productivity.
- Blue-light glasses. Most of the technology we commonly use—such as computer screens, smartphones and tablets—emits blue light, which past research has found can disrupt sleep. In a recent article for Forbes.com I wrote about new research showing that wearing blue-light glasses for those spending a lot of time in front of a computer screen filters the blue light. It can lead to a better night’s sleep, improve business decisions and contribute to a better day’s work to follow.
- Time in nature. Less screen time and more green time are associated with better psychological mental health and cognitive functioning, according to research. Spending a minimum of 120 minutes a week in nature and taking “awe walks”—strolls in which you intentionally shift your attention outward to the natural environment instead of inward where you could be thinking of unfinished work—have been shown to mitigate many of the effects of prolonged sitting, chronic screen time and virtual fatigue.
- “The 20-20-20 rule” can help mitigate the effects of screen apnea, Zoom burnout, and computer vision syndrome (CVS). The rule says that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, you take a 20 second break, move around and look at something 20 feet away, which relaxes the eye muscles for 20 seconds and gives your brain a much-needed respite. Here’s how the rule works: Set an alarm or time popup for every 20 minutes when you’re working in front of a screen as a reminder to get up from your workstation, deep breathe and stretch. It takes 20 seconds for your eyes to fully relax. Every 20 minutes for 20 seconds walk around the room, hydrate yourself, close your eyes or look out a window—perhaps at a tree, squirrel or some aspect of nature. Take off your shoes and dig your toes into the carpet for 20 seconds. And you’re ready to get back to your screen for another 20 minutes.
- Open awareness mindfulness—the peaceful observing what’s happening around you as it’s happening—allows you to meditate while you go about business as usual without spending extra time. It can be any brief activity that makes you mindful of the present moment. Open awareness meditation for just 60 seconds helps you unwind, clear your head and raise your energy level. Sit in a comfortable place with eyes open or shut for one minute. With curiosity, focus on all the different sounds around you, and see how many you can identify. You might notice the heating or air conditioning system, traffic off in the distance, a siren, voices from other areas in the building, an airplane, ticking of a clock or your own gurgling stomach. After one minute, instead of trying to remember the sounds, bring your attention inside and notice if you’re not calmer and more clearheaded.
Thrive Global Teams Up With Zoom To Launch Thrive Reset Zapp To Prevent Virtual Fatigue
Perhaps one of the biggest innovations to prevent Zoom fatigue is the new Thrive Reset Zapp. Thrive Global, the behavior change technology company founded by Arianna Huffington, has teamed up with Zoom Video Communications, Inc. to launch the Thrive Reset Zapp, the in-meeting app that helps users de-stress in real time within Zoom Meetings to prevent virtual fatigue.
“The Thrive Reset Zapp is about giving people ample tools that bring more humanity to technology and, to use a Zoom phrase, deliver happiness,” explained Huffington. “You can use the Thrive Reset Zapp at the beginning of a meeting to start out fresh, in the middle of a meeting to stay focused, or at the end to help you recenter before moving onto your next Zoom. It only takes 60 seconds. We must create a new normal that empowers us to perform at our best at work, prevent virtual fatigue, and build deeper connections with our colleagues–all right here in the Zoom Meeting.”
“We’re thrilled to be working with Arianna and the team at Thrive Global to launch the Thrive Reset Zapp,” said Oded Gal, Chief Product Officer of Zoom. “Arianna has long been a thought leader and influential voice on the relationship between well-being and productivity and we cannot wait for everyone to experience the Reset Guides that Thrive is bringing to Zoom through Zapps. It’s truly remarkable what you can accomplish in 60 seconds and how even small breaks can help you power through your day to prevent virtual fatigue and stay productive.”
“Our Thrive Reset Zapp is an important step in our platform vision to meet users wherever they are and deliver them science-backed Microsteps to improve their well-being and performance,” said Danny Shea, Chief Brand Officer of Thrive Global. “Thrive Reset is one of the most engaging features of our behavior change platform, and by bringing it to Zoom, we’ll be able to help over 300 million daily meeting participants prevent virtual fatigue and thrive in the new world of work.”
Thrive Global’s enterprise behavior change platform is used by hundreds of thousands of employees across companies ranging from Walmart and Salesforce, to Accenture and Bank of America. The enterprise platform helps employees reduce stress and build mental resilience through a combination of science, storytelling and actionable Microsteps designed to improve their well-being and performance.
Arianna Huffington will appear at Resiliency 2021, the international live stream webinar, on September 9, 2021.