How to beat video meeting burnout


Lindsay Harriss


03 Feb, 2021



You may know the feeling – you’ve had a long day of back-to-back video meetings and you’re beginning to zone out. The stress of constant on-screen chatter is getting to you and starting to wear you down. You are not alone. In fact, a new term has been coined for exactly this – ‘Zoom fatigue’. However, while that refers to just one prominent brand, being bombarded by virtual meetings of all varieties can zap your energy and leave you exhausted. So, to help keep you sane and focused, in this brave new remote working world, here are seven simple suggestions to beat video meeting burnout.

1. Try switching

While video conferencing technology has been absolutely invaluable during a time of social distancing, keeping businesses, families and friends connected, and helping to maintain morale, it could be said that you can get too much of a good thing. With overuse, it is perhaps no wonder that many are experiencing a burnout backlash. In fact, in a recent study, 76% of professionals surveyed said they took part in virtual meetings and spent 30% of their working day on camera, while 38% said they had experienced video call fatigue since the start of the pandemic. However, apart from overuse, the reason for such exhaustion could also be due to the nature of this method of communicating, as new research has found that video calls are, in fact, more tiring than other forms of digital communication, because they involve higher levels of self-control and regulation of emotion. So, when the temptation to default to a video call arises, perhaps occasionally try switching to a telephone call, email or message conversation instead. In fact, with the latest unified communications systems, you can seamlessly switch between communication methods, saving yourself time, energy and no doubt stress as well.

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2. Take a break

With the pressure you may feel from participating in, or presenting, video meetings, it can help to reduce the stress, and beat the burnout, by taking a break. Scheduling in even a slight gap between calls can help you reset, refresh and avoid feeling like you are being swamped with a sea of on-screen faces. So, try regaining your sanity by getting up, walking around and stretching your legs. Better still, if you have the time, take a short walk and let some fresh air put any pressure in perspective. This can be even more important when shifting between work virtual meetings and personal video calls, as experts say that building boundaries and buffers between one identity and another – your home and work personas – is vital to your wellbeing. So, don’t even think about ending your working day with a conference call, only to go straight into a virtual meet-up with chums – be sure to give yourself a breather in between, if you value your sanity!

3. Rest your eyes

To reduce stress and exhaustion, when coping with what may sometimes feel like a marathon of video meetings, it also helps to be kind to your eyes. While the rest of your body may be desperate for a break, be sure to give your eyes a rest too. Video calls which require considerable on-screen concentration can lead to increased eye strain. So, try the 20-20-20 rule – for every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away. This useful practice, developed by Californian optometrist Jeffrey Anshel, can really help relax tired eyes. However, another reason you may feel your energy is zapped by video meetings is because of an overload of competing visual stimuli, requiring your brain to process many visual cues at the same time. So, to avoid mental fatigue, try asking attendees to use plain backgrounds, as looking at umpteen different wallpaper patterns and bookcases can be very distracting. It can also help increase your focus, if you hide your on-screen self-view, as this can cause you to zone out and just stare at yourself. If your video conferencing tech doesn’t have this option, just take the low-tech, DIY solution and put a sticky note over your face.

4. Avoid multitasking

Although you may think you are being conscientious, by doing several things at once, it is important to avoid multitasking when on a video call, as research suggests that this can seriously increase your anxiety and depression. So, while taking part in a virtual meeting, don’t be tempted to check your emails, fiddle with your phone or fire off several messages. While you might be trying to get more done in less time and be more efficient, it seems that this practice is actually just counterproductive, and can contribute to burnout. In fact, research at the University of Sussex into such digital multitasking found that it may even result in a reduction in our rational thinking and ability to control our emotions. So, next time you find yourself participating in a video meeting, close down all those tabs, put down your phone and resist the temptation to multitask. Just focus on the meeting – you’ll feel better in the long run.

5. Reduce interruptions

Interruptions to video meetings can come in all shapes and sizes, but may make a video meeting more stressful for all attendees. For example, interruptions from technical delays and silences can make people very uncomfortable. In fact, one 2014 study found that delays on conferencing systems or phones could even negatively influence our views of people, making us perceive them as less friendly or focused. While some such interruptions may be unavoidable, perhaps caused by a break in home broadband service, it is a good idea to reduce the chance of this happening, by ensuring that someone else in your house is not consuming all the bandwidth by streaming films, during your video call. Of course, the chances of other interruptions, perhaps from children and pets, can be minimised by shutting yourself away in a spare room, or even the cupboard under the stairs! However, whether this is possible or not, it is also good practice to wear a headset, which will substantially reduce any background noise that can be so wearing for all on a video call.

6. Be aware of body language

It is fair to say that video meetings have been great at enabling essential face-to-face human contact, if just on a virtual level, allowing business to go ahead (almost) as usual, and combatting social isolation. However, they can be more stressful than in-person meetings, as the nonverbal cues, micro-expressions and body language we rely on so much to read between the lines may be lost in translation on video. Indeed, this can be exhausting, as we may need to overcompensate with extra emotional and cognitive effort. It might therefore help to become more aware of others’ facial expressions, to build understanding and bond with participants better. In fact, adjusting your own body posture can also help to make a video meeting more relaxing for all. For example, you could try positioning yourself slightly at an angle to the camera, rather than looking straight ahead, as research suggests that staring straight on at others for too long can make them feel stressed. This has to be worth it if it eases overall fatigue levels and boosts happiness amongst colleagues.

7. Keep it short

Virtual and a face-to-face meeting may have many differences, but something guaranteed to cause stress for all participants in both cases is an overly long session – so keep it short. The length of a meeting is certainly no indicator of its success or effectiveness, and a long, drawn-out discussion can be far more tiring for attendees than a shorter, well-organised and productive meeting. Zoom suggests limiting your discussion to no longer than 45 minutes, which should be sufficient in most cases. This has perhaps become even more important now that many of our family gatherings and social lives revolve around the same technology we use for work. There is, therefore, the danger that your days can just merge into one long video-call-fest, if meetings run on. So, to keep things short and productive, if you’re hosting a meeting, try setting and distributing an agenda in advance, then stick to it. In addition, only invite essential attendees, as too many participants may lengthen the discussion, and no one needs the frustration of attending an irrelevant meeting.

Whatever your digital communication needs, Prodec Networks can help. To find out more about the best systems for your requirements, contact the experts at Prodec today.

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