PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – When the pandemic began it was almost an adventure as we hunkered down and learned about Zoom.

Now a week shy of a year a lot of us are feeling “Zoom-ed” out.

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“Some days I get absolutely, totally sick of it,” says Michael Pacilio.

You think you do a lot of work on Zoom?

Michael’s day: “Is approximately six and a half hours of zoom time. I am in meetings, all day. I talk all day long. And it’s 30-minute meeting increments. And it’s one after the other.”

While Pacilio says the meetings are productive, Psychiatrist Dr. Alicia Kaplan of Allegheny Health Network who specializes in anxiety disorders says Zoom doesn’t fill all our needs.

“When we’re back in the office we feel, often that energy that we get from being there,” she explained. “The natural hustle-bustle of the day that we’re not getting at home.”

Dr. Kaplan says the upside is staying in touch with friends and coworkers.

“…which has been wonderful and has kept us socially connected, but I think people are ready to get back into society, again, and to have those normal interactions in person,” Dr. Kaplan said.

The “fed-up factor” is universal from those who must attend and those who host the meetings like Allegheny Co. Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

“I mean I’ll be honest with you I’ve had Zoom about up to here,” he laughed. “I want to have meetings again, you know where people can come in and look at each other even if we scowl at each other.”

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“It’s hard because you know you, there is no alternative to this right now,” Pacilio said. “You have to really kind of keep your concentration and it gets us gets exhausting. Absolutely gets exhausting.”

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Stanford University did a study of Zoom fatigue and found the main contributing factors are:

  • Prolonged eye contact with the screen
  • Anxiety from seeing yourself on the screen
  • Decreased Mobility
  • Working harder to read the non-verbal cues in the other boxes on the screen
  • If you can’t get away from your Zoom or Zoom-type meetings, Dr. Kaplan says take steps to make it more bearable. It could be as simple as keeping a glass of water or your coffee in arm’s reach.

    “Make sure you focus outside the camera so that it’s good for your eyes, and even take a little walk or do something different for a couple of minutes or something relaxing, or exercise, all those things can help us with the pace of our day to be a little bit more natural,” she said.

    “Occasionally I put my headset on and I’ll turn my camera off, and I’ll get up from the chair and walk around the house while I’m still in the meeting,” Pacilio said.

    Dr. Kaplan says if you are running the meeting…”Sometimes just at the beginning talking about a little something a little bit different, something personal to make that one-on-one connection. Something fun to talk about to liven it up a little bit.”

    She says to be creative.

    One factor employers need to keep in mind is that people working at home, work more.

    “Absolutely,” said Pacilio, “absolutely more.”

    In his case, he’s often up early for meetings with his European colleagues and then on late with his west coast colleagues.

    He’s not complaining but says it can make for very long days.

    Dr. Kaplan says employers need to realize that just because someone can work from home at any hour there still need to be “work hours” and times when employees need to disconnect.

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    Time away from the screen make them more productive when they are “on.”