It’s completely understandable if you’re starting to get tired of family calls on Whatsapp or group chats with your pals. No it doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person, as what is known as Zoom fatigue is a very real phenomenon. It can exhausting to sustain a conversation on a screen with a group of people for a while, especially when we are all a little bored at home. This can be compounded if you also use video call for work meetings.

While we can’t suggest that you try to introduce some games to your work calls, you can shake up how you do calls with friends with family. Don’t just set a time and expect everyone to have a good time – a little effort can really make a difference and ensure you all leave a call feeling happier rather than drained. Here are some fun ideas to try:

1. Set an agenda

Yes this sounds like something you’d have for a work call but think about it for a second. Calls can begin with a lot of ‘how are you’s’ and ‘any news’ and this far into lockdown, those questions have gotten really tiresome. Chances are if a big gang of you are trying to have a call, it is to have a bit of craic, so set the tone from the get-go.

If this was an actual party, you would all be able to splinter off and have chats amongst one or two of you, but on a Zoom party everyone needs to be involved in the conversation. Try to plan some of the ideas below to create some enthusiasm for the call.

Send the agenda around a day or two before so people have some time to mull it over. Assign tasks if that’s part of the plan, e.g. your brother must share a baking recipe for the call, your sister must come up with some quiz questions, and kids involved must draw the funniest thing they can think of.

2. Status update and homework

It might be a good idea to have a check-in at the start of the call, to see how everyone is doing before you launch into some fun and games. This is the time to share anecdotes of life in lockdown, chat about what you miss, or how you have been keeping busy.

Then set the tone with a challenge. For example, have everyone come up with a joke or a riddle, reveal an embarrassing story or find an interesting fact to get the ball rolling.

3. Group activities

Here are ideas to set up a theme for your call:

  • Do a quiz! Here are some tips to get you started, and some questions to use.
  • You could try challenges, such as everyone must eat and drink using their left hand, or no using first names. Losers must sing a song, do a burpee, stand on one leg, or some other challenge that will keep the rest of you entertained.
  • Give a virtual tour. It could be your new working from home desk set up, or a trip outside to see how all the new plants in your garden are doing.
  • Have share time, where everyone must share a book, TV show, film or podcast recommendation.
  • Suggest a dress code. Have everyone wear their worst piece of clothing, PJs, a costume, or do black tie.
  • Arrange competitions, catering to the talents of your group. The fit members of the gang could do pushups on camera, and the others can vote for the best. You could do on camera makeovers of someone in your house. Whatever you can think of!
  • Use what’s in your house. If you have kids, chances are there is a mini-blackboard, tiny instruments and games you can get creative with. Try a treasure hunt, where people must find certain items in their home within a certain time limit.
  • If you share a passion or hobby, you could use the screensharing function and make a powerpoint. It could be about recipes, true crime stories, TV reviews or a book club. Keep it short and interesting though!
  • You could also just try some parallel activities, where you all do the same thing on the call, whether that is knitting, jigsaws or painting. That puts less pressure on people to keep talking or staring at the screen the whole time.
  • Make it a dinner party or happy hour. Set a theme or try new recipes to make it interesting.

Tips for a better Zoom party

Use a laptop instead of your phone if you can. You will soon find that holding up your phone for an extended period of time will get tiring. Failing that, position the phone somewhere steady and make sure you’re comfortable to stay seated in that position for a while so that everyone can see you. Put it on a stack of books so that it is at eye-level, as any lower will probably give you a double chin.

Choose a virtual background, or else make sure you’re happy with your location. If an untidy house being visible on camera is something that would bother you, do yourself a favour and sit somewhere with a plain background. That way you’re not distracted by or apologising for your surroundings (even though people probably won’t notice or care).

New to Zoom? Make sure your Zoom settings are on gallery video rather than speaker video. Otherwise the person making the most noise will be the biggest picture on the screen.

Know when to call it a night. We are all experiencing more fatigue in general due to the stress and boredom of lockdown. Zoom fatigue is natural too. It’s really difficult to focus on several voices, stare at a screen and keep the momentum of conversation going for an extended period of time. A good rule of thumb is the larger the group on the call, the shorter the call should be. Set a time of an hour, or else ensure everyone knows it’s okay to say they’re heading off. None of us really have anywhere else to be, so we need to be understanding of when people need a break or rest.

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