Zoom fatigue. Most will read this phrase with dread, invoking flashbacks of all-day meetings.
It's true that this is one of the largest side effects of "everything going digital", one of the biggest issues discussed amongst virtual learning professionals. To some, this is a nascent concept. For us, this is another case of virtual training actually being underwhelming.
InSync Training has been leading the way in virtual classrooms for over 20 years. Pre-pandemic, we never worried about Zoom fatigue. Even with back-to-back sessions, jumping from Cisco to Webex to Adobe Connect to Zoom and back again all day long, we've still been in the game far longer than Zoom.
So, what changed? And what impact does Zoom fatigue have on our learners?
As a global organization, our team, our learners, and the instructional partners we work with are all very different. We asked the question, "Does Zoom fatigue affect everyone equally or are some personalities better off than others?"
Zoom fatigue introverts, extroverts, and the in-between...are these real personalities?
Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and research from Stanford  have explored Zoom fatigue in great detail and have started to question whether Zoom fatigue impacts introverts and extroverts differently.
Myers-Briggs describes extraversion as:
“People who prefer extraversion like to focus on the outer world of people and activity. They direct their energy and attention outwards and receive energy from interacting with people and from taking action”.
On the other hand, they say,
“People who prefer introversion like to focus on their own inner world of ideas and experiences. They direct their energy and attention inwards and receive energy from reflecting on their thoughts, memories and feelings”.
With such opposing preferences, you might wonder if it’s even possible to engage both types in the same virtual instructor-led training (VILT), or how we can design for both types of facilitators?
Of course, many of us are somewhere in-between, so we’re not suggesting segregating your learners and running one VILT for introverts and another for extroverts!
We never used to feel this Zoom exhaustion, though. At InSync, we’re all used to days spent on all the video conferencing tools, so what caused this? Can we blame the pandemic? Well, kind of…the pandemic didn't create the problem, it just shed a light on the problem.
Always Virtually There
Almost overnight, everything went virtual – not just training. As organizations moved to working from home, everything went online. Workers were all of a sudden not only learning through Zoom, but also meeting on it, socializing on it, even helping their children attend school on it. So, the whole world began going from Google Meetings with their children’s schools to Microsoft Teams with their managers, to Cisco Webex Trainings with their L&D teams, to Zoom for family quiz night – with very little else in between. With each tool having it's own learning curve, it's no wonder Zoom fatigue is being felt by all since a vast majority use it (Zoom jumped from 10th to 2nd most popular tool to use in 2020 alone).
Did you take the ZEF test to discover how fatigued you are from all the video conferences? For those unaware, ZEF is the Stanford Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale (ZEF) Scale, a survey that you can run through to see how you are coping with Zoom.
At InSync, many of us took the test and were surprised by how fatigued we were, especially given that we’re ‘used to it’. The good news is that, by understanding where we get our energy from, we can do something about it and minimize the impact of Zoom fatigue.
- For introverts - try meditation; solo, quiet walks; cooking or reading in between video conferences to recharge.
- For extroverts - you may feel very energized after several interactive online meetings, but if you’ve been passively listening in video meetings, you may benefit from calling a friend; talking with your family; or moving around to music to recharge.
- For the in-betweeners - it could depend on your mood or the types of events you’ve been attending. Sometimes you may need to take a breather during meetings while other times you could use that opportunity to get some focused work done.
The demands of virtual spurred on the need for everyone to have a webcam and use it (sometimes with hilarious results). Many of us were surprised at the number of clients insisting on using webcam for training when the pandemic hit. We rarely used them before, but all of a sudden, we were expected to be on webcam. This is such a controversial topic that we really need to address it in a separate blog post. There has been a lot of research into the use of the webcam and how it contributes to Zoom fatigue.
Extroverts may enjoy being on camera and may also benefit from seeing all participants on webcam – they’ll be focusing on everyone else and get their energy from seeing other people. Introverts on the other hand may feel the opposite. They focus on their own ‘inner world’ and that’s hard to do when you feel ‘on display’.
In the virtual classroom, we firmly believe in using tools with intention. Think of your webcam as a tool that can be turned on and off at any time and used with intention for a specific purpose in your training.
Face to Face Training Done Virtually Doesn't Work - It's a Different Learning Experience
This has been a problem since virtual classrooms were introduced more than 20 years ago. Simply dumping your existing classroom slides into the virtual classroom isn't the answer. We need to design for this different learning environment, and keep in mind how our learners are going to interact with it.
This is critical for everyone in L&D. Design for the virtual classroom.
Don’t just resort to lecture or discussion because it’s easy to do on a video call.
Don’t just do that and add in a poll or quiz – no matter how fancy the app is!
Consider the InQuire Engagement Framework™ and how you’ll use it to ensure you engage all learners – introverts and extroverts. Our InQuire Engagement Framework ® was created after years of scientific research and ensures we cater to all learners by considering their emotional, environmental, and intellectual engagement needs.
In order to emotionally engage our learners, we must consider their feelings and design and facilitate with those feelings in mind.
Extroverts will want to feel safe to speak up, so they can talk through their ideas when they occur to them.
Introverts will want to feel safe to think it through first before being put on the spot.
Environmentally, extroverts may be happy with other things going on in their own space; lots of side conversations going on in chat; multiple voices; multiple tools and devices.
Introverts may be happier to focus on one thing at a time – with time to think through their response before adding it to chat, a whiteboard, or speaking up.
When it comes to engaging our learners intellectually, extroverts may prefer quizzes that require quick responses; short breakouts; quick toss debriefs; and speaking up about their own experiences.
Introverts may prefer reflective questions to make their own notes; time to think before contributing to a discussion; time to prepare before a breakout; or the option to raise their hand first.
A Critical Error
Perhaps you’re thinking the obvious answer is just to give learners a choice in how they respond. This is a big mistake… if you always invite learners to ‘speak up or add to chat’, who will the facilitator reply to most often? When time is tight, who gets the most input and who gets forgotten?
If someone is introverted and they prefer to use chat (or to take a moment before speaking up), and they’re consistently ignored in favor of extroverts speaking up, they’ll give up!
They’ll no longer be engaged with the environment. “Why bother pressing the raise hand button if I’m not asked to speak?"
They’ll no longer be engaged emotionally. "Do they even want to hear from me?"
And, they’ll no longer be engaged intellectually. "What’s the point of thinking of an answer if I won’t get to contribute?"
Design with Everyone in Mind
The good news is that if we design with the InQuire Engagement Framework™ in mind and we facilitate a variety of activities, we will be engaging not only introverts, extroverts and those in between, but we’ll be engaging all learners – no matter their preferences, languages or cultures.
The solution is working with a trio of experts:
- Designers that design for the virtual classroom, minimizing Zoom fatigue
- Facilitators that include everyone and exhaust no one
- Producers who support the technology, facilitators and learners to ensure a great, engaging learning experience
 Introduction to Type, Isabel Briggs Myers (6th European English Edition) published by OPP Unlocking Potential