In the reality of today’s pandemic crisis, video calls allow some of us to continue working, stay connected, and to get the education we would otherwise miss. Still, why do we feel so tired as a result of this many video calls? What is that we can do about it to keep our productivity but also our mental health and overcome this crisis?
What makes video calls so tiring
Well, there are multiple reasons but suffice to say, it’s a new thing that suddenly takes control over our lives, and that makes us uncomfortable on many levels. We used to go to work in an office, hang out with friends over dinner, go out to a gym to practice sports… and now, we work, hang out with friends, connect with family, and practice sports at home, usually in video calls or over a screen. Using the same physical space for everything is stretching our minds and comfort zone a lot, and messes up with everything we were used to.
The most significant fatigue element is considered to be the fact that, during a video call, we need to put in more energy to make up for the loss of body-language clues we would otherwise get in a face to face conversation. Delays, breaks of sound, and other distractions during video calls ask for an extra effort to concentrate, all the while being extremely conscious that you are being watched. It’s a mental stretch we’re definitely not used to.
It takes so much more effort to guess the clues around the tone of voice, pitch, body language, and other clues via a video call. No wonder we feel overwhelmed. And it’s not just about changing the means, from face to face to virtual, but also the number of such calls that is draining up our energy. The fact that once we’re done with work for the day, we continue our screen time with friends and family just adds up to the overall fatigue we experience.
Being on camera generates the feeling of being on stage. While on a call, do you tend to keep looking at your face while speaking? Checking and making sure it all looks ok? This stress is maybe hard to perceive, but it’s there, and definitely, a massive contributor to our video calls exhaustion.
And one last thing. The pandemic and lockdown news that is so negative only adds to everything; it puts even more pressure on our already messed up brains and noisy backgrounds. It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or extrovert, we all experience the same effects.
Why do social video calls feel tiring too?
On top of our working virtually, during these times, we also join on-screen meetings for a beer with friends, happy hour, Easter dinner with family, or just catching up with dear ones. It’s all set to be fun, but then, why does it feel so tiring?
There are a few reasons for it, and one of them is related to how we feel about those fun meetings. Are they something we have to do or really want to? If it feels more like an obligation, it follows the same pattern as work-related calls. Same place, the same tool, just different people and different topics, but it is still something we feel we are obliged to do.
Another reason is related to the video call itself and how aware we are that we are being watched. We do see the others on video. But we also know we are being viewed, so we stress about how we look, behave, what’s around us and visible, our body language, facial expression, and so on. It’s like being on stage or watching television with a feeling you’re part of the show being watched. Even if we’re not consciously fully aware, this is tiring for all of us, as it’s not something we’re used to doing.
How can we work around the video calls fatigue?
Once we become aware of this fatigue and its causes, we can consciously work on alleviating it. Below are some ways to help you do so.
The first step is to assess what video calls are necessary with the aim to reduce them to a minimum required. We might know the saying that goes around the internet, “another meeting that should have been an email.” See which of your meetings can be shortened, or replaced with another form of communication, like email, or another productivity tool you might be using inside your company. If you can also group them during certain hours to free the rest of the working hours for individual work, that’s even better. For example, I like to put most of my meetings in the afternoon when my UK and US colleagues are on, and I can be available for them. That gives me time in the morning to deal with actual work, emails, and pending tasks.
When you do enter a video call, try and connect with people first. Bring in the humanity, check-in on how they’re holding on, especially during these times. It will help, as empathy and the feelings of connection and trust kick in. And all these help reduce the fatigue element for everyone in the call, not just you.
Also, allow small breaks in between meetings, so you can stretch, get a drink, or do a bit of exercise. Relaxing and breaking the pattern helps alleviate fatigue and putting you in the right mindset for the next meeting.
When despite all this, it all still feels overwhelming and just too much, you can look at taking some time off. Even if you can’t go too far really, taking a few days to relax, do what you love from the things you can do, and just not be in front of a screen all the time will help a lot balance your sanity. It’s the kind of buffer you need to reconnect with yourself and energize to face the rest of this period that is taking its toll on all of us.