SUDBURY -- "Zoom fatigue" is a real and present threat to those that are working from home.

Psychologists have created the term to describe those dealing with a form of exhaustion or screen burnout, as they look for new ways to stay in touch while quarantining.

Richard Barlow, a Sudbury actor and writer, is behind a new YouTube short called The Ten People You Might Find in Every Zoom Call, his take on some of the common mistakes that happen while connecting with family and coworkers.



From the one who doesn't know how a webcam works to the one who doesn't know how to mute, there's something in there for just about all of us.

Barlow says he was looking for a sketch he could do to keep him busy.

"And it was hard to think of what to do in between all of my Zoom calls," he said. "I was trying to think of something, as well, that we could shoot over Zoom.

"What could we do? There (was) all this stuff where Zoom was getting in the way and it just kind of hit me.

"The one that I've experienced the most is the bad connection. We'll be in the middle of a scene and an actor will just freeze, and then it takes 15 minutes to get back to reading or something because someone has a bad connection."

In the sketch, he says he wanted to pay homage to the fact that our whole lives are now centred around Zoom.

When it comes to the issue of Zoom fatigue, he's a believer.

"I had used Zoom before -- like once or twice, not to the extent that we're using it now," he said. "I definitely see it as being a 'thing.'"

One person who's seeing it more in their line of work is HR consultant Jodie Desrochers, who had to become proficient in Zoom at the start of the pandemic.

"It's taken that in-person vibe that I was going for and has taken it right out of the equation," said Desrochers. "We're missing a lot of the non-verbal cues. The majority of the way we communicate is through non-verbal, so here we're working extra hard to interpret people's tone."

Desrochers said there is added pressure on everyone to try and compensate for those missing physical cues.

Her house takes screen breaks to prevent burnout at least once a week.

"I think it is really a 'thing,' I'm living through that myself so now I believe that by doing it," said Laurentian University psychology professor Josee Turcotte. "One reason is it's a perceptual difficulty that we usually have which requires more attention. So it's the 15 minutes that requires more attention, more focus, more effort."

 Turcotte says the poor microphones and ambient noise can lead to distractions when trying to have a conversation.

"Another thing is when we videoconference, we cannot move the same way -- we're static in our position, it's not natural, so that creates some tension in our body as well," she said.

"You're definitely being watched and you can see yourself being watched," said Bruce Oddson, Turcotte's husband and Laurentian University Human Kinetics professor. "Seeing yourself has an impact, which is why some stores put up mirrors and things."

The couple has been using Zoom to keep in touch with Oddson's mother, who lives more than four hours away.

Zoom has skyrocketed in popularity in the last few months, jumping from 10 million to 300 million users.

Experts say there are things to do to protect yourself from reaching that level of exhaustion, including taking breaks.

They add it's important for you not to burn yourself out.