We are experiencing a time of great uncertainty. Schools have shifted to online, working from home is the new norm and the word “Zoom” seem to be in everyone’s vocabulary. With social distancing measures in place across much of the country, we are relying heavily on other forms of communication to stay connected. Thanks to video applications such as Facetime, Skype, Zoom etc., people can stay connected to their social support networks and keep engaged in their professional duties or academic responsibilities. However, as weeks go by and the days begin to blend together, some are beginning to experience fatigue with the many video calls taking place in their lives.
While video applications have proven to be an efficient way for professionals to keep up with their work responsibilities, it has also brought a different quality to our attention span while online. You may be watching a colleague’s presentation but become distracted, then start checking your emails or making mental to-do. If you’re in a video conference with several people (and likely hearing their background noises such as children and pets), you are processing multiple audio and visual cues from everyone in a way that you’d never have to do in a conference room. The visual cues can be overwhelming, and you can start to become over-stimulated by all the video calls you participate in.
This can all lead to physical strain on our bodies. From a numb backside and aching neck to a throbbing headache and eye strain, hours spent in one position can leave a person feeling cranky and achy. With many people stuck at home and moving from work or academic responsibilities to personal, they are often going from one screen to another. The divide between “work and home” is shrinking, which adds to the fatigue experienced from the extensive access to digital screens.
With friends and families in different parts of the world, video calls are the best way to stay connected with them. From the onslaught of Zoom/Facetime calls, digital events, online happy hours, and virtual celebrations, it can feel as if we still have a social life. However, how do you limit time spent on a call when you don’t technically have anywhere else to be? Or when you no longer want to talk? In the real world, it is relatively easy to arrive at a natural endpoint to a conversation, but our new “social” lives don’t come with a blueprint. There is also the emotional strain of participating in video calls all day. For many, It can feel anxious and awkward to stare at your own face for the duration of a call. Others might be introverted and feel nervous when speaking up in a video call. Some are choosing to enter Zoom calls with their camera turned off and audio muted, others are using fun video effects to take pressure off and are deft at limiting the amount of video calls they participate in. As discussed by Dr. Degges-White in Psychology Today, there are several other ways to help with video fatigue:
- Use your phone, not your computer, to call into some of your meetings. It can feel less stressful using the “voice only” option. You could move around, sit on your porch or sit outside in the sun and give your muscles and eyes some relief.
- Don’t schedule back-to-back meetings. Give yourself 30 minutes to an hour break before your next meeting.
- Make sure to take a break from screens between meetings and get fresh air, a glass water, or do some jumping jacks or a quick 10-minute walk inside or outside.
- When you’re tuning into a business meeting, use your phone and focus on listening and taking paper-and-pen notes rather than doing “double screen”. Multiple video conferences in one day can blur into one another, just as the days do. By focusing on what is happening and writing legible notes as you go, you’ll be able to stay focused and retain what is being shared.
- Have a designated “home office” and make sure it feels different from your “living area”, even if it’s the same space. Change the lighting when you go “off-the-clock”, change the playlist and ditch the coffee mug from your desk. When you feel you’re working 24/7 and are unable to leave the office to see friends and family, having tricks to help you feel that there’s a boundary between work and personal life is important.
The recent pandemic has transformed the everyday lifestyle for people across the world. The ways of communication and staying connected has shifted. Though these virtual connections have allowed many to maintain their professional responsibilities, it also brought physical and emotional exhaustion. And with the pandemic showing little to no signs of improvement, this is not the time to stop taking care of ourselves. Be honest with yourself about what you can handle, practice mindfulness, and prioritize your mental and physical health. Today’s challenges will eventually shift, and we will return to a new normal, armed with new knowledge and an expanded ability to adapt.