Video-conferencing screen time can wear you down in surprising ways. Here, how to cope.
Since the quarantine began, Zoom — and other telemeeting technologies — have become a lifeline, providing amusement (and much-needed interaction) for hosting virtual happy hours with friends and taking workout “classes” from your living room.
Their main function — to power the legions of people who are now working from home — has been a revelation for many: Zoom, a company that’s only nine years old, went from a user base of 10 million last year to 300 million in April. But some unforeseeable pitfalls have come along with this modern work mode — and that’s not even a reference to the embarrassing faux pas that have been splashed all over the internet.
An inability to read body language and assess other communication cues is taking a toll.
For starters, there’s never a reason to miss a meeting (nowhere else to be!), and this universal availability has led to an exhausting morning-‘til-night onslaught of video-based meetings.
Here's the surprising part: Experts say the biggest challenge with that isn't the time being spent in front of the computer (though that's not great either); it's the perversion of how we typically communicate that we find so taxing. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, an inability to read body language, faces that pop up in different spots on the screen, transmission delays that hinder turn-taking and the dreaded “dead air” that occurs after you make a comment and responders are on all mute, are taking a toll.
Another major stressor: Your computer has turned into a mirror and it is reflecting back the image you assume others perceive in the same way you do, which may not be good thing. Being in isolation has changed how we look — our grooming routines have been disrupted and for people dealing with mental-health issues connected to appearance, the impact of scrutinizing your face all day, every day goes way beyond vanity.
How to Ward Off Video-Conferencing Fatigue
1 Find Mindful Focus
It's no wonder we feel depleted when we don't take the time to refill our energetic tanks. Before each video meeting, take a few moments to center yourself. "It doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming," assures Lia Avellino, LCSW, Director of Head & Heart for THE WELL. "Just closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths, listening to some soothing music, going to the kitchen to make yourself a tea or doing a five-minute guided meditation on an app can help shift you into a more peaceful or mobilized state."
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2 Dial In From Your Phone
Nutty as it sounds, logging in from your phone versus a laptop can reduce the intimidation factor of Zoom-like meetings. Why? That same aforementioned piece from The Wall Street Journal noted "that images of framed heads of varying sizes are disconcerting... audiences are particularly sensitive to images of people, especially when they are too big and too close. In an early study of physiological responses to media, researchers at Stanford found that larger screens — 56 inches compared to 13 inches — activate the sympathetic nervous system associated with the fight-or-flight response — likely in part because they made images look closer and more threatening."
3 Resist the Urge to Perform
While it's important to participant, it's not necessary to be a star player during every meeting. Vaile Wright, the American Psychological Association's director of clinical research and quality, told USA Today that fatigue sets in because telemeetings "require more focus and mental energy than a face-to-face meeting might." She added: "It's this pressure to really be on and be responsive."
4 Untether When You Can
Even if your desk is your kitchen counter, you need to stretch. Try these eight simple desk stretches that take less than a minute, suggests physical therapist Dylan Craig, DPT. Even better, get up and walk around between every call — or, if you don't absolutely need to have your camera turned on for every meeting, stroll around your home during the call.