If you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t have had to use video calls at all in your day-to-day life. That is, until the pandemic started. Suddenly everything had to be done by video chat, which filled me with dread as I have a social anxiety disorder. My placement interview, my placement client hours, my volunteer work, and my hospital appointments all suddenly had to be done by video chat. I was filled to the brim with Zoom meeting anxiety. But I figured out a way to help myself manage that anxiety and I’m going to share it with you.
Buffalo 7, a presentation design agency, conducted a study into this very topic, asking over 2,000 home workers about what they thought about Zoom meeting anxiety. According to Buffalo 7‘s study, they found that 73% of the people they asked had suffered from Zoom meeting anxiety, which is a surprisingly big number. I guess most people weren’t used to doing video chats before the pandemic, especially for work and from home.
What Is Zoom And Video Chatting?
In case you’re unaware, which isn’t very likely after a year in a pandemic, video calls are where you call someone, accept your camera is also turned on so you can see each other while you talk. Originally, the big video chat platform was Skype, but for some reason, come the pandemic, it all became about Zoom, hence Zoom meeting anxiety as the title of this article. There are other video chatting and conference calling platforms other than Zoom, such as Microsoft Team and Google Meet, both of which I’ve used.
While I was finishing my dissertation, I had to use Microsoft Team to talk to my supervisor and my partner has to use this platform for work meetings. Whereas, for my volunteer work I have to use Google Meet. This was largely due to the privacy and security issues that came out when Zoom became the popular video chat and conferencing platform. However, those early privacy and security concerns with Zoom are now meant to have been resolved.
What Is Zoom Meeting Anxiety?
Zoom meeting anxiety comes in three main flavours, if you ask me: housebarrassment (you’ll know this one if you’re a Brit thanks to the adverts), your appearance and behaviours, and the uncomfortableness of the situation (shyness and social anxiety).
Although this started out mainly as an advertising campaign by Wickes, a lot of people will understand the uneasy feeling of letting people, especially co-workers, seeing into your home. If you’re like me and live entirely in a single room, then it’s hard to find an angle that’s tidy or professional, let alone both. For example, right now, if I turned my webcam on, you’d be able to see my Space Invader curtains and my unmade bed.
If you don’t have a lot of options for where you can have your video chat meetings, then you’re going to feel anxious about it. Fortunately, some platforms allow you to change or blur your background, which can help with managing your Zoom meeting anxiety if housebarrassment is an issue.
Appearance and behaviour
I’ve always had an issue with my appearance due to relentless bullying during my childhood. As a result, I don’t take photos of myself and rarely appear in other people’s photos. So sitting there and have to see a video stream of myself among the video bank of participants isn’t a comfortable situation.
Then, on top of that, some people will also be worried about what they’re wearing and how they’re behaving on camera. It’s hard to focus when that small live video of yourself is in your eyesight because you want to make sure you look ok and don’t appear to be doing anything considered weird. At the best of times, you don’t know what you should do with your hands and other body languages. On Zoom, it just feels amplified for some reason.
According to Buffalo 7, video calls require more focus than regular calls or face-to-face interactions. This claim by Buffalo 7 might explain my preference for meeting face-to-face than talking on the phone or video chatting, even though I have agoraphobia as well as a social anxiety disorder.
Luckily, because home broadband isn’t as good as business broadband, more often than not, you can get away with having your video and mic turned off to avoid quality issues for the main person(s) talking. Which, is handy in a meeting to avoid that Zoom meeting anxiety.
Unfortunately, for some reason, women are still expected to hold themselves to a higher standard of beauty when we’re all working from home and the hairdressers are closed (Vox). Why we can’t all be allowed to just wear sweatpants and look like we’re working from home, because we are, is beyond me.
If you have social anxiety, then that little video of you is going to be distracting and will attract your gaze. Even when you’re doing a video chat session where it’s just two of you, I’ll imagine, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be having thoughts like, “do I maintain eye contact with the video of their eyes or the webcam camera?” and these thoughts will never go away.
Buffalo 7 also found several other factors that could influence Zoom meeting anxiety, which was:
- Having to be your own IT guy when tech/audio problems arise.
- Difficulties with reading the body language of the people on the video chat.
- Difficulties with being heard as the technology priorities the loudest spoken person’s mic.
- Having no time to prepare before you’re forced into a video chat.
- Getting talked over.
- Being lost in the crowd and having too many people to focus on in the big online meeting.
- Having to deal with the screen-sharing when giving presentations and presenting documents.
The Importance Of Overcoming Your Zoom Meeting Anxiety
During the pandemic, it has become hard to socialise with the people we care about and the people we can tolerate (you know you miss the annoying work friends too). Humans are social creatures and our mental health can deteriorate without social interaction, which is why a lot of people have struggled with the isolation that has come with the pandemic lockdowns. Messaging and normal phones calls are fine and can help deal with the social isolation caused by the pandemic, but group video calls add that extra something to make it feel more like a social gathering, it’s also easier to play games in a group video chat meetup.
Graded exposure is the perfect tool for managing social anxiety and Zoom meeting anxiety. It was like graded exposure, a CBT method, was created specifically for this moment during our pandemic woes by allowing you to create a plan to overcome anxiety in situations like these. Simply put, graded exposure is like doing dry runs of conditions that increase in anxiety severity that you work through until the anxiety goes away. Thus, you create several steps going from the least anxiety-inducing situation to the most, starting from the least and working your way up the steps until you complete the last and most challenging one.
For example, for Zoom meeting anxiety, you could start by having video calls with your parents or partner to get used to that experience of video chatting with your loved ones. You could mix this up by doing this step by using different lengths of time to help you get used to it. You could start off having video chats with your partner for five minutes at a time and work your way up to 30 minutes.
The next step could be to arrange Zoom calls with your close friends, again with increasing lengths of time, you’ll be having the video calls. Then the step after that could be to set up Zoom calls with people you’ve not talked to in a while, like old school friends or people you’ve not seen or spoken to in the last year or so.
Following a plan like briefly discussed above will reduce anxiety symptoms as you become comfortable having Zoom sessions. Thus, working through steps like these will allow you to dominate your Zoom meeting anxiety and might even completely extinguish that anxiety altogether. The same method can also be applied to public speaking or giving a presentation. The gradual increase in exposure to a source of anxiety is the key to this method and can be applied to most anxiety-inducing situations, not just in the workplace.
For a more detailed article on using graded exposure, click here.
To download my free graded exposure workbook you can click here, click the button below, or visit my resources page and download it from there.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of Zoom meeting anxiety in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget to bookmark my site and if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
81 thoughts on “Zoom Meeting Anxiety And How To Effectively Overcome It”
This post is sooo on point. I’ve gone from a face to face job where I was constantly on the phone to working at home and being on camera all day. Then I changed jobs where I manage myself and I’m on zoom and camera only a few times a week. I’ve gone backwards but my level of dread has increased – how does that even make sense!?
I think I put pressure on myself to be the bells and whistles I was once in the office but it’s hard to convey over zoom.
Some great tips, I’ll be practicing these from now on!
Thanks for sharing, I hope the tips helps
Great post! I think that video call anxiety is very real- and I always get a bit anxious before a meeting. Thank you for sharing these tips, I’m sure they will be very helpful 🙂
I hope they will be too
I feel so much of this post is a real representation of at least 90% of the workforce at the moment – I dread zoom calls more than anything! I came from a job where day-to-day meetings (maybe even up to 10 different people) were the absolute normality, to having to transport that into a Zoom call…dreadful. I never know where to look, what to do, who to look at if it’s more than one person I am talking to… anxiety at its highest. I will download your workbook and see if I can sort some of my issues out. Thank you for sharing this article!
I hope the workbook helps ?
This post is so helpful! There have been way too many zoom meetings this year, and I always worried about my room. I didn’t even know about the Wick’s campaign.
A lot of those meetings could be an emailed memo as well
I despise zoom meetings, technology almost always gets in the way, I had one the other day and for some unknown reason my computer just didn’t want to unmute me. I’ll be glad when face to face is back, which is funny coming from someone with issues with social anxiety haha
I know that feeling as someone with social anxiety as well
Great post. I’m sure everyone can relate with it, too. I have Zoom/Teams stress all the time.
They do suck
Tell me about it ugh. As a college student, I experience what you called as homebarrassment because I’m scared of what they would think about my home. And it just makes me so nervous when I talk because I don’t hear anything from them besides my own voice. Are they laughing at me at the moment? Are they mocking me or something? I will never know. Thanks for sharing, learned something! Informative stuff!
Having those thoughts really do make zoom meeting unpleasant
As someone who just did a zoom presentation less than an hour ago, I can tell you it’s very real. I hate sharing screens and having the camera on, but I can appropriate the fact I don’t have a 50+ minute commute one way at the crack of dawn.
It’s certainly nice not to have to waste so much time commuting
This is a great post. I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t needed to use Zoom for anything, but I know I would have been nervous about it if I had. I barely make regular phone calls if I can avoid it. CBT is a great tip. I had to work back up to driving after being in a bad accident, and it was very effective.
I try to avoid making phone calls as well. It’s great that CBT helped you return to driving
anxiety around zoom calls is such a real thing. i used to even get this with regular phone calls. but 5 years in the customer service industry helped me overcome such anxiety thankfully. but i find zoom calls to be more vulnerable as in some cases your face is shown so all body language is visible.
I’m the same with phone calls, I still try to avoid calling
Social anxiety combined with this new way of working is just ahhh all over the place for me! Thanks for the great tips, I’ll keep them in mind xx
I hope it helps
I didn’t know this was a thing! But I have this with calling someone still haha! These tips are actually great.
I hate talking on the phone too, although I can do it, as well as do video calls, without the dread, I still hate doing it
This is very insightful…i do feel this zoom meeting anxiety sometimes…but now I know what to do to overcome it. Thanks
I hope it helps reduce those feelings of Zoom anxiety
I have definitely struggled with this while changing careers, shifting from working in an office building to working from home. One thing that I did learn that has helped is that I can still rock those sweatpants and leggings. No one sees anything from the waist down when I’m on a video call, so it’s like my little comfortable secret hahaha – It’s not at all uncommon for me to hang out in front of my computer with leggings or PJ pants and a button up professional looking top lol
I did my placement Zoom interview in a shirt, tie, and sweatpants over ha ha ha
I totally have had zoom meeting anxiety. Last year I had my first zoom meeting and I was nervous. I remember logging in extra early and making sure everything was set up perfectly. After though I was happy that I did feel anxious anymore. The more zoom meetings I had the better I felt about zoom meetings. I suffer bad with social anxiety and it’s caused me to loss friendships and jobs but now I am really trying to work on it and overcome my anxiety.
The more successful exposures you have to the things that cause you anxiety, the weaker the anxiety will become
Good points. I actually have in person meeting anxiety. I try to avoid them at all costs. So working remote was a blessing. At our work we are “supposed” to turn on our cameras but 90% of people don’t. I am at about 50/50 when I do. But we use Teams and it has a nice feature that you can blur out your background or do a fake background if you have anxiety over how your house looks. So that is always a nice option.
A lot of the meetings I’ve been on using video chat I’ve not had to have the camera on, so I’ve just worked on my blog while in the meeting ha ha ha
Omg I actually felt homebarrassed the other day! I had an interview and had to use Zoom and the backdrop was my kitchen and I could see the interviewer’s eyes just shift to the backdrop every two seconds. Will face to wall next time!
I hope the interview went well, besides the housebarrassment issue
I have regular meetings but I’m usually only required to be in the background taking notes, so I can get away with having my camera off!! ? When I have to have it on, I definitely blur my background lol
Holly | http://www.gollymissholly.uk
I could never do note taking, too slow at it due to my dyslexia
This lost spoke volumes to me! Although I don’t have social anxiety, but as a bee teacher I face a lot of self doubt when it comes to my ability to teach. So when schools had to go online, this only fanned my self doubt and made me feel very anxious. The fact that I had no choice but to do it made it worse! I was/still am constantly paranoid on zoom and felt exposed that my teaching/appearance/way of speaking everything was up for close scrutiny! So thank you for sharing this and showing I wasn’t the only one!
It can’t be easy having like 30 children on a zoom call with you being the main focus and only seeing a few of them in return. But imposter syndrome is real, I have to deal with that all the time too
Thank you for this post! Since the pandemic all my image consulting and personal styling work has moved online. I want to be sensitive towards my clients and I always offer them an option for a video call or just a regular call. Seeing someone on camera helps when choosing the right colours for example but then I also have clients who want to discuss their online image or personal brand and that can easily be done without seeing the person. I don’t have a Zoom anxiety but I notice a Zoom fatigue from time to time. Is it really necessary to be so visible all the time?
I think the extra stress of being in zoom meetings speeds up the feeling of fatigue. I certainly wish we didn’t have to be so visible all the time
Me too! I don’t think anyone gets so much out of seeing people’s faces (and homes) all the time. That novelty wore off like on week 2 of lockdown.
Thankfully I don’t have to make Zoom calls, but I had to make a lot of conference calls and the anxiety they produce is arguably as bad as you cannot see peoples faces, I was always paranoid of people laughing at me behind my back. Another by-product of school bullying.
School bullying, the gift that keeps on giving. 90% of my issue can be traced back to school bullying as well
I had anxiety about waitressing when I first started a couple years back but doing it and interacting with strangers and making connections did so much to help my confidence. That said, I am still nervous about video calls and definitely feel the house-barressment aspect more than anything else!
Thanks so much for sharing some great ways to gradually ease into Zoom calls with practice. Calling friends and family never occurred to me, but I love the idea of starting out with people I am already comfortable with. <3
It’s always nice when you can find a use for your family and friends ?
What a great post! I have such bad zoom meeting anxiety, and every time I heard the words “breakout rooms”, it initiates my fight or flight response.. Will definitely try to overcome that. Thank you for sharing this x
I’ve not had to deal with breakout rooms yet, luckily
Great tips! One thing that has helped me is turning off the view of my camera in zoom. So my video is still on for everyone else, but I can not see or obsess about myself.
I didn’t know you could do that, but then I mainly have to use Google Teams at the moment. I wonder if it can be done there too?
I deteste that Wickes advert! We have so much more to worry about so stressing about the way our home looks was just another thing we didn’t need! I got really worried during my first Zoom meeting as we lived in a teeny flat and I didn’t want anyone making comments! Luckily my team are super lovely and just said I had a lovely flat!
It is an annoying advert, and I certainly wouldn’t spend tens of thousands redoing a kitchen just because of a Zoom meeting, but unfortunately it taps into a real fear as we don’t like to be judged badly
This post is so on point and helpful! Zoom meetings do make me nervous but these are some great tips xx
Thanks for this post! I have such bad face-timing anxiety that I even have a hard time using facetime to talk to my son… He’s 6 and doesn’t give a crap what I look like but it still freaks me out. This was helpful!
If only we could all retain that childhood mentality to looks
Great post. So many of us relate to ZOOM blunders and anxiety , especially those working in smaller cluttered rooms
Thank you. It’s got to be harder for those living in bedsits and tiny studios
Zoom meetings put me into an anxiety state, without question. When things get too messy around here, I use the zoom virtual background feature! Thanks.
Oh my gosh! I can’t stand Zoom calls, I’ve not yet had to go a Google meet call yet. I have horrible anxiety and just waiting for the meeting to start whether its a coaching call or a psychiatrist appoint, I am always nervous of these. I usually look like I just rolled out of bed except with a little mascara and eyeliner and a messy bun. For the important meetings I just don’t have the energy to muster up 45 minutes doing makep I never do or my hair that I only straighten and have no idea what else to do with it. This is a great article!
I can totally understand not wanting to put in a 45 minute make-up session just for a Zoom meeting
This is such a well articulated article. I hate Zoom meeting because I’m afraid of showing my room; it’s super messy. I like the Zoom virtual background but I don’t have a green screen so sometimes it’s laggy. Zoom should start adding filters like Instagram where we won’t need to worry about make-ups and face anymore.
It’d be nice if society in general just didn’t expect people to where makeup for zoom meetings
This is so relatable! I have social anxiety and I’m a teacher. My students and their parents have now seen inside my house, which is crazy to me! I am always making sure my background looks nice and that my appearance is spot on. The blurring of work and home has definitely made me feel uncomfortable. I did practice a lot with features of Microsoft Teams before the first day of school. My husband, parents, and friends were my guinea pigs. I get very anxious when I’m trying new tech things live as the presenter.
That’s great that you’d taken the time to practice ahead of time with your family and friends, I hope it helped with reducing some of the anxiety for when you started doing it with your students
Yep. Can identify with ALL of this. Your tips are really helpful though.
This is a great post. I also use Google Docs and a phonecall rather than zoom too sometimes. I think it’s okay to be like “zoom doesn’t benefit this meeting”, especially if connectivity is an issue. Great post.
Wow. Great info here. I am still a very anxious person when it comes to making phone calls or meetings. I get so panicky and my mind goes blank. Always been a good hide behind a text or email sorta person. Thanks for sharing though 🙂 great to find other people who can relate to all this x
Thank you. Yeah, I prefer a text or an email as well. Phone calls are for weirdos ha ha ha
I completely agree with you. I’m a very shy and reserved person, and having business meetings online has always given me great anxiety. I’ve always tried to keep the camera off, because inevitably, as you said, you end up looking at yourself all the time to make sure everything is ok. You’ve really given some great advices. I’ll definitely keep them in mind 🙂
I hope the advice helps
Fascinating read! I’ve definitely come across this through work. It’s been a hard change for many people and it has definitely blurred the boundaries between work and home. But I think it’s also tech worries for some people. They’re not so confident with the platform or at least weren’t at first
The tech can become especially annoying when you have to keep using different video chat services rather than sticking with just one
This is super helpful advice and perfect timing for me. I have been unemployed the past year but just signed up for a class with a. weekly zoom meeting that starts in 3 weeks. I should start practicing my zooming now. Thanks for sharing.
I hope it works out for you and good luck with your class ?
Zoom can be quite intimidating at first. I quite like it though as there is no travel required. Therefore it is an ecofriendly way to meet.
The issues is more the constant zoom meetings that some people are having to endure so managers can feel like they’re doing something. Some people are having three to five zoom meetings a week, every week, through covid