How greening your space, petting your animal bestie, and taking a break to walk can fight Zoom fatigue and improve your work-from-home routine.
Zooming Into the Future of Work
The way that many of us work continues to shift. Case in point: Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently announced he plans to keep 200,000 people―cheekily referred to as Googlers―working remotely until at least July 2021. Many large companies are going digital by default. Likewise, small businesses are rethinking the need for expensive office space and storefronts.
Further, over the past six months, the use of Zoom has extended beyond business to engulf schools, doctor visits, and spiritual gatherings. And when we’re not Zooming, we’re still screening—from yoga on YouTube to FaceTiming with friends.
Increasingly focused on our backgrounds―what others see―we may not be tending to helpful adjustments in our environment, which could reduce computer vision syndrome, migraines, dry eyes, and burnout.
Three Practices for Overcoming Zoom Fatigue
1. Green Your Space
Position your desk or workspace adjacent to a window with a nature view or position plants in your line of sight. While you work, take microbreaks to gaze at your new, green co-workers. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that looking at greenery for as little as 40 seconds can help restore you from mental fatigue.
Or try greendesking. Simply take your laptop and noise-canceling headphones outside and work from your yard or a local park to reap the added benefits from vitamin D and grounding with the Earth.
Go deeper: Designer Sally Coulthard recommends three key threads for creating a space that is biophilic (a word we owe to social naturalist Erich Fromm and conservationist E.O Wilson, meaning to tap into our urge to live in affinity with other forms of life.)
First, make sure your home puts you in direct contact with nature. Second, fill your living space with natural textures, materials, and colors. Third, live in a way that connects to nature’s cycles and rhythms. Learn tips for doing all three in Coulthard’s book Biophilia: You + Nature + Home.
2. Animal Bonding, Gazing, and Petting
Undoubtedly, companion animals have become our furry co-workers. Could human-animal interactions be beneficial to our combined health?
Takefumi Kikusui, an animal behaviorist in Japan, examined the impact of eye contact between dogs and their human companions.He found that with sustained gazing, oxytocin levels increased in both the dog and the human, creating that warm, love-filled feeling. Translation: Battle Zoom fatigue by taking frequent breaks from your screen to gaze into your pup’s eyes.
Cat lovers should stick to stroking their cat, since many cats can find direct staring a challenge. Meg Daley Olmert, in Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond, suggests that stroking at an optimal rate of 40 strokes per minute may increase both human and kitty oxytocin as well. (My anecdotal research seems to prove that cats are natural Zoom companions—just watch their tendency to back up into your webcam!)
If you are allergy-prone or your landlord won’t allow pets, no worries. Catskill Animal Sanctuary will bring you live digital interactions with “snuggly sheep, mischievous goats, gentle turkeys, and so many other rescued farmed animals.” While you’ll still be using a screen, you’ll likely receive the tension-relieving benefits of laughter.
Go deeper: Help bring peace and wellness to shelter animals by taking an online course from home with the Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA). Co-founders Kathleen Prasad and Leah D’Ambrosio “combine Japanese spiritual meditation and healing practices with a gentle mental and physical approach that allows animals to lead the way in their own healing.”
3. Walking Outside
I’m beginning to think the 19 after “COVID-” doesn’t refer to the year of its appearance, but rather how many pounds I’ve put on eating nondairy Ben & Jerry’s from a tub while answering email. Locked down at home, my body and step counter are crying for my attention while I offer the excuse that I’m too busy.
Enter Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, founder of The Restful Company and a visiting academic at Stanford University. In his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, Pang details how walking can both improve body health and increase brain activity. Notable scientific breakthroughs, such as the development of the antibiotic penicillin, as well as artistic inspiration, such as the lyrics for the musical Hamilton, happened on long walks. Pang notes that walking can both “loosen inhibitions to creative thinking” and “dislodge insights that have been working their way up from the subconscious.” And in this time of full houses, walking can provide privacy for sensitive matters. It may also free us from reliance on endless tiny-texted PowerPoint presentations. So, put on your kicks and unleash your creative-thinking skills. Convince co-workers to swap video for an audio-only meeting and walk together.
Go deeper: Walk while listening to the Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less audiobook. Afterward, sink into another Pang-recommended practice: napping!
After the initial “we’re in this together” rallying cry, astute folks have pointed out that while we may be in the same storm we’re not all in the same boat.
And I think that applies not only to people, but to the other living beings on this planet. Plants, pets, and other animals are affected by our changes in work and lifestyles. Raising our consciousness of their challenges and needs is another worthwhile pandemic-time pursuit. Start your journey by reading Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life by E.O. Wilson.
Then: Zoom less. Love plants. Pet animals. Get moving. Help others. And stay safe out there, everyone.
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