Why can video calls make you feel exhausted?
Processing the faces and voices of several people at once through the lens of a screen takes a lot of subconscious effort. Only seeing people from the shoulders up means we miss a lot of non-verbal communication, like hand gestures or fidgeting. Low video quality can also make it much more difficult to understand facial expressions. This means our brain has to work harder to make up for a lack of information, compared to when we are interacting in person.
But there can be other reasons too. When our own video is on, it can give us a heightened sense of awareness about how we’re coming across, and what we look like. As well as being distracting, it creates another layer of self-conscious thinking that we don’t have when face to face.
There can also be less opportunity to get up and stretch your legs. Dialling in from your laptop means you’re at your desk more. Whereas if you’re in the office you can move between meetings or pace up and down when on calls. This can lead to more aches and pains from sitting in one position all day.
These days, more of us are also using video calls for social interactions with family and friends, health appointments, exercise and online learning. This can mean we’re on the computer all day, adding to a general feeling of screen fatigue.
Tips to tackle video call fatigue
The good news is that there are things that you can do to limit your experience of ‘video call fatigue’. Here are some tips.
1. Take regular breaks
If you are on regular work video calls with a group of people, try taking mini breaks from your video screen during a call. You can do this by briefly switching off your camera while someone is presenting or leading a discussion. Or look away from your computer for a few seconds at a time.
It might also help to block out some time in between meetings to give your eyes a rest. And on days where you have back-to-back video calls, see if any calls can be done with the camera switched off. Your colleagues will probably be glad of a rest too.
2. Limit video calls
While video calling has become the new norm, it’s also worth considering if it is always the best option. In some work situations, a video call may not feel like the best form of interaction. It might even feel intrusive, especially if you’re communicating with someone for the first time. If you find yourself in this situation, perhaps suggest having the conversation over the phone or email instead.
When you’re feeling particularly exhausted from video calls, see if you can move your call to a later time, or even another day. Are there are any regular video catch up calls with work colleagues or family members that you could easily swap to a phone call? This has the added benefit of letting you head out for a walk at the same time.
3. Limit your meetings in general
With everyone working from home, the number of meetings has increased for many of us. Yet some evidence suggests that too many meetings can affect productivity. Prioritising calls and emails to show how hard you’re working can be tempting, but it’s important to make time for tasks that require deeper thought. Carve out some time in your diary to focus on these key pieces of work. And keep in mind when you tend to be at your most creative or productive – it’s unlikely to be at the end of a long day of video calls.
4. Avoid distractions
When you’re on a video call, be aware of distractions such as your phone and email inbox. Try and focus on the conversation in front of you. Research has found that people who multitask can’t remember things as well as those who are more singularly focused. Switching between tasks can also result in you losing up to 40 percent of your productive time. Try turning off notifications during periods when you need to concentrate.
5. Take computer breaks
Finally, spend time away from your computer. Staring at your screen for long periods of time can cause problems such headaches, stress and poor sleep. Going out for a walk every day and getting fresh air can really help to restore your energy levels. Or if you need to stay indoors, try doing some stretches or breathing exercises, ideally somewhere away from your desk.