By the end of next year, it is expected that remote work will increase to 77%. Although the global pandemic forced us to learn how to work remotely, the trend is not likely to decline. Alongside the change of where we work, our need for video-conferencing also increased. We have all experienced the so-called “Zoom Fatigue,” as we now have been in the thick of this global pandemic for close to a year. Due to the length of time, there is enough data to verify how video conferencing affects us and how taxing it can be on our brains. Today we will take a look at why video-conferencing is so tiring and the recommended quick fixes.
Before the pandemic, working remotely was a job perk. It became a necessity with many work from home orders that were put in place, and now, even though many are back in the office, it appears that remote work will continue being the norm, at least part-time, for many of us. It was initially a novelty, and we enjoyed changing our backgrounds, sending emojis, and adding the classic cat filter. Although it became apparent very quickly that the constant use of video-conferencing was taking a toll on our energy in a way that in-person meetings did not. The founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab was able to compile and analyze the data surrounding how video-conferencing affects our brains differently compared to in-person meetings and has offered suggestions on how to help alleviate the psychological consequences.
Extended amounts of close-up eye contact:
Have you ever attempted to make direct eye-contact with a co-worker or client in person for more than 5 seconds? It becomes incredibly awkward for both parties very fast. On a video conference, not only are we unnaturally zeroing in on the speaker, but we are forcing ourselves to make eye-contact with a face that seems abnormally too close to our own. Our brain interprets this close contact with an intense situation, for, in a standard face-to-face interaction, this situation would lead to conflict or mating. Thus, making a typical Monday morning meeting much more stressful than usual.
To give your brain a break and remedy this awkwardness, the Stanford Human Interaction Lab recommends using a “gallery view” instead of a full-screen view to minimize the face size on your screen. They also recommend using an external keyboard so that you can create a bit of personal space, giving you and your brain spacing that is more comparable to a face-to-face meeting.
Looking at yourself all day long:
It can sometimes be irritating and very distracting when you can see your reflection in a monitor or window in a face-to-face meeting. In most video conferences, you are part of the group’s grid, forcing you to look at yourself while talking, making decisions, and giving feedback. It is inevitable to be more critical of your visual image and how your face reacts to others. Viewing ourselves constantly can create a great deal of unnecessary negative emotional stress. In a time when more in this country are struggling with mental health, the last thing we need to be doing is adding to our negative personal feelings.
If possible, within your application, remove yourself from your grid view. In most platforms, you can edit the default settings to beam your video only to others instead of to both self and others. This change will give your brain a break from critiquing yourself all day long.
Sitting unnaturally still for meetings:
In a typical person-to-person meeting, participants will periodically shift around, get up and walk, and doodle without feeling like they might be judged for not paying attention. It is proven that humans are more cognitively effective when they can move. So now, you are sitting unnaturally still to show engagement, making video-conferences much more draining.
One thing you might try is giving yourself a bit of distance from your camera to provide yourself with the room to move without exiting your camera’s view. You could accomplish this with an external camera positioned some distance from your desk or even an external keyboard that allows you to back up enough to create a larger camera view.
The Cognitive Load is Much Heavier:
Speaking of appearing engaged in a video-conference, our natural feedback, unfortunately, does not translate equally. This puts a more significant load on our brains to make our reactions and feedback much “larger.” Instead of a natural head nod, we feel inclined to exaggerate the head nod or give a big thumbs up in the confines of our camera view. We have to analyze our reactions in addition to paying attention to the meeting, ensuring our response gives the appropriate meaning as not everything in a person-to-person meeting has the same context. These analyzed and exaggerated reactions are just another toll on our brains. Unfortunately, it is not socially acceptable to turn off your camera during a meeting, so you will need to find what allows your brain to rest in between meetings. Many find a few moments outside with fresh air and sunshine to help reset your brain.
The trend of remote working appears to be increasing, not decreasing, so we all must find healthy ways to deal with the added stress and exhaustion of video-conferences. Whatever platform your business decides to use, you must find the ways that it can help you and your team work effectively instead of negatively impacting productivity. For more tips on how to find efficiency working remotely, reach out to our Pendello Solutions team today.