“Virtual meeting fatigue.”
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, these terms simply didn’t exist. Now, it’s the rare person who doesn’t feel some level of weariness with video.
The good news is, you don’t need to give up video entirely: just change how you use it. Here’s what you can do to stay connected while avoiding fatigue.
Turn your camera off
It won’t surprise you to learn that the hardest thing about being on video all day is, yep, being on video all day.
That is, having a camera trained on you keeps you “on” — in a heightened state of social engagement that’s really exhausting 🥵.
Surprisingly, camera status is a much bigger contributor to fatigue than the amount of time a person spends in video meetings. “Keeping the camera consistently on during meetings is at the heart of the fatigue problem,” researchers wrote in the Harvard Business Review this fall.
The lesson: Turn off the camera on video calls when you begin to feel fatigued. Weary eye-rubbing is optional.
Deactivate your mic when you’re not speaking
You probably switch your mic off already in case of background noise. But it helps to understand why this helps lower fatigue.
Way back in 1999, research found that video conferences increase cognitive load compared to audio calls. “This may be because additional cognitive resources are used to manage technological aspects of a videoconference, such as image and audio latency,” researchers speculate.
When you turn off your mic and switch to “listener mode,” your technical overhead 🛰 and cognitive load 🧠 go down. You can then focus more closely on what’s being said.
The lesson: Simplify your video chats by keeping your mic off 🚫🎙 as much as possible. You’ll have one less thing (your noise level) to worry about.
Look at the camera instead of the screen
When you’re talking to people in person, you tend to make eye contact in a natural way. Video chats — especially those with lots of participants — are different.
On video, all you see is a wall of eyes 👀. Most of them probably aren’t looking at you directly, but that’s not how it appears on your end.
“Being stared at while speaking causes physiological arousal, a phenomenon amplified on video conferences because all other participants appear to be directly staring at you,” a study in Computers in Human Behavior Reports says.
The lesson: Stay calm and controlled by looking at your device camera when you speak, instead of the faces staring you down 👁👄👁.
Don’t gaze at your own video
Most video platforms show you your own face, in addition to those of the people you’re speaking to. While this can help you touch up your appearance, it also leads to stress.
“Individuals are more likely to evaluate themselves when seeing a mirror image,” two psychologists wrote in 1972: leading to increased self-consciousness 😫 and social anxiety 😵.
The HBR article adds that the self-evaluation effect is especially pronounced for women and new employees — probably due to concerns about their status within the organization.
The lesson: Turn off or minimize video self-view. You look good, trust us 😬.
Keep an eye on ‘FD’, decrease ‘B’
“F” and “D” refer to the frequency and duration of video meetings. Frequency is how many video meetings you have in a day 🗓, while duration is how long they are 🕕.
Of course, if you’re using video for work or school, you might not have much power to reduce your on-screen time. What you may be able to do is reduce “B” — that is, burstiness.
Burstiness is the intensity of your video routine, measured by the amount of time you have between video conferences 👌. Less downtime = higher burstiness.
If you can schedule your video calls in such a way that they don’t take place back to back, or aim to end calls just a few minutes early, you can win back time to rest 😴 and recover 😌. Cutting down on burstiness can be hugely calming — compared to dashing from one video call to another.
The lesson: Schedule downtime into your video calls. Then, take a deep breath.
How do YOU stay energized on video? Share your best tips with us – you can find us on social media @illumyinc.
Photo by Carl Newton on Unsplash.