As we continue to cope with a global event that’s demanded more agility and compromise than anyone anticipated, we’re seeing a curious challenge that’s difficult to believe. Who would have thought that working from home and connecting with co-workers and clients virtually could be more exhausting than in-person collaboration? Very few. But that doesn’t diminish the impact video conference fatigue is having on populations worldwide. In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s a real condition and yes, there are ways to combat it. And the answers start with why we’re so tired of video meetings to begin with.
To get to the heart of our video conference
dilemma, you have to first understand what’s going on in our brains as we dial
in and suit up for connection.
To start, video meetings are more intense than
in-person ones because it’s a natural instinct to feel “on” for the camera;
that means smiling, being gregarious and exaggerating non-verbal cues. (Ever
wave at the end of a video call? Me too.) Couple that with the fact that we’re
looking at ourselves in a grid as we speak (and listen), making us more aware
of things we don’t usually give a passing thought—like hairs out of place,
newfound wrinkles or dark undereye circles. It’s a recipe for exhaustion.
We also focus more intently on video than
in-person because there’s only a screen to look at. In person, we whisper to
colleagues, write notes and use peripheral vision to take little mental breaks.
On a video call, the only way to show we’re paying attention is to look at the
camera, leaving little time for mental time-outs.
Adding to the hyper-focus is the brain’s
natural ability to process everything within eyesight, including the
backgrounds of all 10 people in the meeting. Whether you realize it or not,
you’re making mental notes like what books you see on a bookshelf, what plant
you can see in the corner, and why there’s a samurai sword hanging behind your
favorite co-worker. No wonder meetings leave you feeling drained.
Driven to distraction
Now that we know video meetings are far more
tiring than in-person meetups, let’s talk about all the other things pulling
our focus away from work collaboration. The obvious one is other family
members. From significant others to children, sometimes working from home is
just not conducive to productivity. Besides family interruptions, you’re also
thinking about what’s next—like dinner prep, homeschooling or that load of
laundry in the other room. Factor in home deliveries, pets that need your attention
and child or elder care, and the list of things competing for your attention is
simply endless. It’s only natural that you’ll have trouble focusing on a video
Even without the family factor, multitasking on work projects is also an issue. It’s tempting to catch up on email, chat with coworkers about projects or try and finish other tasks while listening to a meeting, but it’s simply not effective.
Think of your brain as a battery; you only have so much power to spend, and if you double up on tasks, it will deplete twice as fast.
Tips to reduce
video conference fatigue
serious about getting more productive and focused while using UC
tools for video calls, consider these top eight tips:
Keep things in perspective
At the end of the day, try to be gentle with yourself. You’re not just working from home, you’re working through a global catastrophe—and it’s not business as usual. Check out my colleague’s post for some great tips on remote wellness and how to make the most of working from home. And remember to take work stress in stride and allow yourself the downtime you need to stay happy and healthy.
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