It’s a brand-new year, and after almost a full year of virtual meetings, we think it’s time for a new resolution: reduce video call fatigue. When you’re already working a full day (and then some) in front of a computer, having virtual dinner with family and friends, and spending more time than ever watching Netflix due to the pandemic, having too many video calls is resulting in exhaustion, stress and frustration for many work-from-home employees.
Harvard Business Review examined the reasons why video calls are so draining for employees.
“In part, it’s because they force us to focus more intently on conversations in order to absorb information. Think of it this way: when you’re sitting in a conference room, you can rely on whispered side exchanges to catch you up if you get distracted or answer quick, clarifying questions. During a video call, however, it’s impossible to do this unless you use the private chat feature or awkwardly try to find a moment to unmute and ask a colleague to repeat themselves.”
Additionally, video calls make it easy for participants to lose focus. Between the background noise, political and social upheaval, encroachment of workspace into your home space, and other notifications constantly going off, it is especially challenging to focus strictly on the meeting happening in front of you.
Lastly, according to Harvard Business Review, video call fatigue happens because of the way that we process information over video as opposed to in person.
“On a video call the only way to show we’re paying attention is to look at the camera. But, in real life, how often do you stand within three feet of a colleague and stare at their face? Probably never. This is because having to engage in a “constant gaze” makes us uncomfortable — and tired. In person, we are able to use our peripheral vision to glance out the window or look at others in the room. On a video call, because we are all sitting in different homes, if we turn to look out the window, we worry it might seem like we’re not paying attention. Not to mention, most of us are also staring at a small window of ourselves, making us hyper-aware of every wrinkle, expression, and how it might be interpreted. Without the visual breaks we need to refocus, our brains grow fatigued.”
Here are Harvard Business Review’s tips to make video calls less draining:
- Don’t multitask. The more you try to do during a video call, the less focused you’ll be and the more stressed you’ll be trying to focus, now, on multiple tasks at once. Be in that meeting, close other tabs and applications, turn off notifications, and pick up those tasks again when the meeting is done. Don’t worry, your emails aren’t going anywhere.
- Take breaks. Block off your calendar so that you’re not engaging in back-to-back(-to-back-to-back) video calls. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, step away from your computer and give your eyes and your brain a rest.
- Reduce onscreen distractions. When you’re on a video call, you’re looking at many things at once. Not just your coworkers’ faces, but their living rooms or kitchens, their kids or pets, and your own This can be extremely distracting. You can minimize these distractions by encouraging your employees to sit in front of a boring, plain background, turning on “speaker view” so you’re only looking at once participant at a time, and hiding your own video box so that you’re not watching yourself.
- Make virtual social events optional. Yes, we’re all starved for social time, but that doesn’t mean social events should be mandatory. You and your team are already exhausted from virtual meetings, so if you’re hosting a virtual happy hour or other social hour, it’s beneficial to make it optional so that you or your team members can opt out if they’re feeling too fatigued.
- Ask yourself the question: Can this be an email? Having a “quick” video call can cause unnecessary stress for participants as they rush to get ready, put on a nice top, brush their hair… just to sit on Zoom for 10 minutes in a meeting that could have been an email. If you need to schedule a video call later on to further dive into a project or issue, put that on the calendar. But for quick requests, shoot over an email or a chat message.
- Consider a call instead of video. Especially if it’s someone you don’t know well, consider scheduling a phone call instead. Video calls are more intimate and can be intimidating if you aren’t familiar with the person you’re talking with.
Zoom fatigue is real and many are feeling the effects of it. As leaders in your organization, it’s up to you to help make sure that your employees are finding balance in their workday. Unprecedented times call for new ways of working, engaging and discovering healthy work/life balance.