If your response to an invite for a video meeting is an audible groan, you’re not alone. Video meetings are valuable tools that help us stay connected and improve communication in many situations. On the other hand, attending too many video meetings can deplete your energy.
Before the pandemic, I couldn’t go a week without hearing one of my clients complain about unproductive meetings. Now that meetings are virtual, I hear complaints almost daily. All of the old frustrations have followed us into the virtual world where new issues compound them.
Video calls are more physically and psychologically draining than in-person meetings. Our brains work harder because there is more to process on a video call. Whether it’s all of the video tiles, multiple screens, or multiple documents, there is a lot of information vying for our attention. If there are five people on the call, we don’t just pay attention to the five videos; we notice five backgrounds, including people or pets walking by. It’s a lot of stimulation. Even if you’re not consciously aware of it, your brain works overtime to filter out the noise and focus your attention.
We are similar to teenagers learning how to drive. They need to think about every little decision they make because experience hasn’t created the muscle memory that automates those decisions. As video chat novices, we have to think about unmuting, sharing our screen, annotating, and more. Each decision takes additional energy, and we soon feel drained.
Video calls also require more effort to read body language, which is a valuable part of communication. What used to come naturally in face-to-face interactions now takes deliberate effort because of poor lighting, poor framing, or a slow internet connection. We require more energy to process what we see as we wonder if someone is avoiding eye contact because they’re nervous or aren’t comfortable looking into the camera. These things add to the effort it takes to communicate, collaborate, and make decisions.
On top of all of that, we see ourselves on video throughout the meeting. Can you imagine sitting in a conference room with a mirror in front of you? It sounds absurd, yet that’s what we have in our virtual world. It makes people very self-conscious. The distraction of the videos wastes energy. In addition, watching ourselves speak can make us less authentic as focus turns to ourselves rather than our audience.
When you add all of this up, it might be more accurate to call it “Zoom Exhaustion”. Let’s take a look at 7 ways to manage your energy and use it to increase your productivity.
Take Microbreaks –
Even a 5-minute break can be beneficial. Get away from the computer and phone and move or meditate. Schedule microbreaks throughout the day to ensure that you remember to take them. They will give you a burst of energy.
Turn off video –
Not every meeting requires video. If reading others is essential, then turn videos on, but don’t default to using videos for every meeting. Every time you’re able to turn the videos off, you’ll save energy.
Cancel the meeting –
As with any other meeting, ask yourself if the meeting is necessary or if you could accomplish your purpose with an email or a brief phone call. If you’re not facilitating, be sure your attendance is needed. If you’re not sure, ask. It may be that a copy of the meeting notes is sufficient. Every meeting you don’t need to attend will save energy.
Hide your video from yourself –
If seeing yourself on video distracts you or makes you self-conscious, hide it. To do this in Zoom, click on the menu on the top right of your video and select “hide self-view”. You won’t see your video, but others will.
Get a standing desk –
Volumes of research show the harmful effects of sitting all day. Standing up for part of the day will give you more energy than sitting down meeting after meeting.
Change your view –
It is nice to start a meeting in gallery view to see who is on the call and greet people. Looking at all of those videos for an entire meeting is more work for your brain than just looking at one. Changing the view to speaker view gives your brain a break from the stimulation of multiple videos. It also takes less energy to read facial expressions when the speaker’s video is big.
Resist the temptation to multi-task –
It’s tempting to have email or other work open during a meeting. While I don’t recommend multi-tasking in any meeting, I discourage it here because it contributes to Zoom Fatigue by giving your brain one more thing to focus on when it’s already overtaxed. Save some energy by resisting the temptation to multi-task.
Zoom Fatigue is real and takes a psychical and psychological toll. You don’t have to sit passively by while Zoom calls drain your energy. These seven suggestions to increase your energy are a great start, but this is only the beginning. What else are you doing to fight Zoom Fatigue?
If you’d like to increase your ability to influence and to have an opportunity for practice and to go deeper, register for our self-paced online course ‘Mastering the Fundamentals of Influence’.
Dr. Heather Johnson is an internationally recognized speaker with extensive experience developing leaders. With a doctorate in Psychology and over 20 years of business experience, she works with leaders to quickly identify individual and team performance obstacles and develops customized solutions that lead to rapid change and lasting results. Heather facilitates public and in-house workshops that deliver personalized, practical, and immediate results. Some of her most requested topics are: Influence, Emotional Intelligence, Team Building, Communication, and Strategic Planning. For more information call contact us here or call 651-210-6021.