Virtual meeting fatigue is a phenomenon almost nobody had heard of before the pandemic, but one most of us are all too familiar with now. For many of us, sitting through back-to-back-to-back Zoom meetings has been one of the defining experiences of the last 16 months. On the one hand, video conferencing, and especially Zoom, has been a lifeline during the pandemic, allowing us to work remotely and stay connected to family, friends and co-workers. On the other hand, as Zoom has become the new office, virtual fatigue has become the newest form of technology-driven burnout.
But what if we could keep the best aspects of video conferencing and lose the drudgery? What if, instead of feeling depleted by endless Zoom meetings, we could use the possibilities of this technology to help us feel less stressed, more connected and even more inspired? That’s the goal of Thrive’s new project with Zoom to create the Thrive Reset app for Zoom, which will be available to all Zoom users starting today.
Reset is one of the most popular features in our Thrive app. It’s based on neuroscience that shows that we can course-correct from stress in just 60 to 90 seconds. And now we’re bringing it to Zoom as the first in-meeting app that helps users de-stress and prevent virtual fatigue in real time within Zoom meetings. You can use it at the beginning of a meeting to start out fresh, in the middle to stay focused and present or at the end to help you recenter before moving onto your next Zoom meeting, or the rest of your day. And it only takes 60 seconds.
Research from Microsoft’s Human Factors Lab shows just how effective taking even small breaks can be in combating virtual fatigue. By using EEG devices to monitor brainwave activity, the researchers found that virtual fatigue sets in around 30 minutes into a meeting. But they also found that when participants took a short break between meetings, their brains showed a decrease in beta waves, which are connected to stress. The study also showed that back-to-back meetings with no breaks also diminish our ability to focus and be engaged. But again, when participants took breaks to reset, their engagement held steady. As the report concludes: “The antidote to meeting fatigue is simple: taking short breaks.”
And now with the Thrive Reset app for Zoom, we can take breaks not just between meetings, but during meetings. Here’s how it works: When you open the Thrive Reset app from Zoom’s Apps Menu, you’ll see a selection of Resets — with themes like gratitude, stretching, reframing a stressful moment or taking a “brain break.” Each 60-second Reset includes a guided breathing bubble that helps you inhale, exhale and bring yourself back to center. As the science shows, breathing is a gateway to an amazing range of benefits for both our physical and mental well-being. Focusing on the rising and falling of our breath, even for 60 seconds, activates our parasympathetic nervous system, lowering our cortisol levels. Right now there are six Resets, which you can experience here, and we’ll be adding more in the future.
Technology allows us to do amazing things. It’s what’s allowed us to stay connected during the pandemic, and it’s why scientists were able to create the vaccines that will hopefully bring the pandemic to an end. But even the most useful advances can bring unintended consequences. For example, even the most revolutionary medicines, like antibiotics and chemotherapy, have side effects. With technology, the consequences are often not seen until after the first wave, especially if it’s so rapidly adopted. And one of the best ways to create solutions for problems caused by technology is, paradoxically, with more technology. By making technology more human, we can maximize the benefits.
Fortunately, we have a partner in Eric Yuan, Zoom’s CEO, who is committed to making technology that’s more human-centered. On a recent panel I did with him for this year’s FORTUNE Brainstorm Health conference — yes, it was a virtual meeting — he not only admitted that he, too, suffers from virtual meeting fatigue, but recognized the urgency of addressing tech-fueled stress and burnout. “Today, when we all work remotely, we have so many meetings,” he said. “And the biggest problem for everyone is mental health. That’s not our expertise, but that’s why we’re partnering with Thrive, so we can embed Reset into the Zoom interface.”
In a recent CNN op-ed, Eric cited a study conducted by Boston Consulting Group and commissioned by Zoom that found that companies expect more than a third of their employees to continue working remotely even after the pandemic ends. Which means that virtual meetings aren’t going away anytime soon. And now with the Thrive Reset app for Zoom, we can keep the benefits — the connections, flexibility and convenience — and diminish the fatigue and strain we’ve come to know too well. In his CNN piece, Eric also shared his tips for dealing with virtual fatigue, which included ending meetings a few minutes early to give people a buffer to recover between meetings, implementing a “no internal meetings” day, and discouraging night and weekend meetings. And soon he’ll be able to add a new one: using the Thrive Reset app for Zoom.And I hope you will, too. You can download the Thrive Reset app from the Zoom App Marketplace or by clicking on “Browse All Apps” once you update to the latest version of Zoom.