How to Handle Videoconferencing Fatigue

These days, many previously cubicle- or office-bound workers remain working from home or otherwise remotely, and their situation isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Enter significantly more video calls than you’ve ever had before.

On its face, all that virtual face time with far-flung coworkers and supervisors at a time when we can’t safely convene in person may seem like a convenient substitute for the real thing. In fact, it’s taking a serious toll on us. 

“Zoom fatigue” stems from how we process information over video,” Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy write in a recent piece for Harvard Business Review. “[H]aving to engage in a “constant gaze” makes us uncomfortable — and tired. … 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.”  

There’s hope yet, even for those whose colleagues and bosses seem to show no signs of souring on the practice of video calling. Below, we discuss the top three ways to stop feeling drained by these communications at the end of every workday.

Don’t Multitask

You might think a video call affords you the opportunity to get multiple things done at once since you’re not meeting with others in person, but try to think of these calls the same way you would think of a real-life tete-a-tete. Just as you (probably) wouldn’t be trying to get other work done during a discussion in a three-dimensional conference room, neither should you attempt to do other tasks while on your video calls.

“Not only is multitasking more stressful and less productive than single-tasking but technically it’s not even possible,” Jory MacKay writes in a blog post for the website of RescueTime, a time-tracking software company. “What feels like doing multiple tasks at a time is actually our brain frantically switching back and forth.”

And all of that ‘switching’ is exhausting, which is part of the reason you feel so tired during the workweek. During your video calls, focus on the content of the meeting and resist the urge to use the time to do something else as well.

Give Yourself a Break

There are so many benefits to exercise, it’s not surprising that ‘video-call-fatigue antidote’ is among them. Physical exercise has been shown to give people a notable cognitive boost. In one study, from the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, participants experienced this boost from just three-minute “bouts” of exercise (think push-ups and jumping jacks).

So on days, where you have a scheduled video call (or calls), set aside a few minutes before and afterward to get out of your seat, take your eyes off your computer, and move your body. 

Even quick exercise can get you out of your routine and get that brain firing on all cylinders,” John Boitnott writes in a piece for Inc.com.

Just Say No 

If your inbox has become so overrun with invitations for video calls that there’s little chance you’d have time for even a few minutes of physical activity in between, it’s time to shut things down. Don’t feel compelled to accept every Zoom invite that crosses the threshold of your email account. If the topic to be discussed during the meeting is something that could easily be resolved by email or even a regular phone call, don’t be shy about suggesting as much. You may be surprised at how much slimmer your schedule becomes as a result.

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