As more and more of our workplaces are adopting hybrid working environments, the use of video conferencing software platforms has sky-rocketed. It’s allowed us to talk face to face with anyone no matter where they may be working from, and a way in which we can stay connected.
However, this connectedness may have its downfalls as well.
Have you ever shut down the laptop screen after a long day of work and felt utterly exhausted. Your back is stiff from sitting all day long, your eyes are tired, you’ve got a headache and you are just really drained. Maybe it makes you feel irritable or short-tempered and you just don’t feel like doing much else at all. Know that you are not alone, and these could be signs that you’re suffering from Zoom fatigue.
Although not specific to this one particular program (poor Zoom getting all the bad wrap), this phenomenon arises from communicating for a long period over a video platform.
What is it
This concept of Zoom fatigue is a collection of physical and psychological consequences. Similar to the signs of burnout or traditional exhaustion, Zoom fatigue can be characterised by some of the following;
When we speak of fatigue in these circumstances, it can incorporate a range of things. From a general feeling of fatigue to a more specific form of visual fatigue. Not only affecting the physical body, one may experience social, motivational, and emotional fatigue as well which can lead to relationship strains etc.
Whilst it is not considered a formal diagnosis, its presence is very real and can contribute to overall burnout. In fact, studies have shown that 49% of professionals who are working remotely reported a high degree of exhaustion as a direct result of numerous daily video calls. This is a concerning statistic, particularly when 30% of remote workers are spending 2-3 hours each day in video meetings.
With that being said, let’s look at some of the reasons why workers are experiencing Zoom fatigue and what we, as employers, can do to prevent it.
Who would have thought that not being around people and connecting via means of a video chat platform, would in fact be more exhausting than if we were meeting in person? The fact of the matter is, that it has been shown to take more effort and be a more exhausting way of interacting with our colleagues. Here are a few of the reasons that contribute to that;
1. Close up eye contact.
During a video call, there are excessive amounts of close-up eye contact that, frankly, would never occur in a usual face-to-face meeting. During a normal meeting, people would be focusing on the person talking, taking notes, gazing elsewhere etc. However, on a video call, everyone is looking at everyone, constantly. On top of that, depending on the size of the monitor you are using for the video call the faces are often too large for comfort, and a lot closer to our own faces, than we would sit should we be having a face-to-face conversation. This creates a response from the brain that we are in an intense situation, and for hours on end sitting on video conferences, this is not a healthy state to be in.
2. Seeing yourself during a video chat can be exhausting.
Who would ever have thought we would be conducting work meetings practically into a mirror. Many video chat platforms show yourself as well as the other participants which is an unnatural experience when being involved in a team meeting. Studies have shown that when we see a reflection of ourselves we are more critical of ourselves. So if we are constantly seeing ourselves during these meetings each and every day, it is causing us stress. There’s been a significant amount of research done showing the negative consequences of seeing yourself in a mirror, and some of the video platforms are mirroring ourselves back to us constantly.
3. Higher cognitive load.
Whether we realise it or not, when we have a face-to-face interaction with somebody we are actually picking up on a huge amount of nonverbal cues subconsciously. Unfortunately, due to the size of the screens, generally over a video call we are only seeing our team from around the shoulders up. Not to mention these little squares are often small. This makes trying to pick up, read or interpret any additional information near impossible. So what does that mean? It means, we have resorted to exaggerated movements, or additional body language cues (such as a thumbs up), to try and get our points across. None of these are overly natural which means our brains are having to work harder to not only pick them up when other people are doing them but also, we are having to consciously think about doing them ourselves to be effectively heard.
4. Compromised mobility.
In most cases video calls require you to generally stay in the same spot as the field of view is often small. This limits our ability to move in a natural way. Think about the way in which, maybe even slightly, you move around whilst you talk to someone face to face even over the phone. You’re able to adjust, stretch, and at times even stand up, and move around freely. This has actually been proven to be a good thing! Research has shown that when people are moving around they communicate better and are more creative. So if we are sitting in the one spot to be in the field of view of our video chat platform, we are restricting our movement and at the same time limiting our capacity to think and speak freely.
5. Tech troubles.
This is a whole problem in and of itself, however, we will touch on it briefly. Whether it’s patchy wifi, microphones not working, frozen screens, or lagging video, having technical issues makes engaging that much more difficult. It doesn’t even have to be you experiencing technical issues from your end, any form of disruption can cause undue stress to the participants of the meeting.
6. We’re too easily distracted.
And finally (if you’ve stuck with us this long!), there’s just too much to be distracted by. If we were all sitting around a table having a meeting you wouldn’t see your email notification pop up, you wouldn’t hear the call come through to you. Yet, whilst we are on a computer there can be a constant stream of notifications or temptations drawing our attention away from the task at hand.
How to prevent it
Having an understanding of the factors that contribute to experiencing Zoom Fatigue, gives us insight as to what we can do to avoid, or at least cope with it.
With the effects of Zoom fatigue impacting numerous areas of our employees’ lives, it is important to ensure we are doing what we can to look out for any signs or symptoms and manage them appropriately. Take the time to speak to your employees about the concept, whilst offering advice and solutions as to ways in which to manage and cope with Zoom fatigue. We must remember when it comes to things such as burnout or exhaustion the effects are not purely physical, and we have a duty of care to ensure that the overall health and wellbeing of our employees is a priority.
We’ve shared a number of things that you can do to cope with and prevent Zoom fatigue within your team, but remember it is not a one size fits all. Keep the conversation going with your employees, find out what strategies work best for your team, and continually check in to see how each staff member is feeling when it comes to the way in which they conduct their work remotely.
Emily has a background in corporate sales and recruitment. Experience, that allows her to understand businesses and people, and to create compelling copy and content that showcases just that.
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