What is video call fatigue?
Video call fatigue is described as exhaustion from use of video conferencing technology. If you’re working from home full time, or part of the time, you’re probably attending meetings frequently online. Video fatigue symptoms may include:
Why are video calls so exhausting?
Interacting with several faces and voices at once through 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, fidgeting, and body posture.
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. Since we can see ourselves in the video screen, 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 move around. Dialling in from your laptop means you’re at your desk more. You also have to stay within the camera lens. 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.
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 five tips to help you.
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. If you have back-to-back meetings, this can cause stress as you jump from meeting to meeting. A short break between meetings can help to reset your brain.
Try to avoid using that break to do work, instead do something to relax like meditation. 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 is now more common, it’s also worth considering if it’s 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 better time. Video calls held later in the day may cause more fatigue than calls held during midday.
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
Some evidence suggests that meeting overload 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 meeting, 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 and closing tabs and windows 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 as 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.