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Video Fatigue: It’s Real and It’s Exhausting

Posted February 22, 2021

Video Fatigue

With approximately 40 percent of the workforce still operating from home, reliance on video conferencing is essential for many professionals. Our calendars include hours of back-to-back video meetings and we wonder why we are exhausted at the end of the day.

Concentrating on a tiny square on a small screen for hours at a time produces a special kind of “brain lag” called Zoom Fatigue. To be fair, the name should be “Always-on Fatigue” because that’s what’s required when there are eyeballs on us during nearly every meeting online and we need to appear alert and engaged.

On top of that, there is “pressure to perform” on video calls. Are you muted? Is your camera on? Did a family member use your computer and leave a cat filter up? Yes, you’ve probably heard about the Texas attorney who recently brought a bit of levity to an online legal proceeding when he appeared on the video screen with a cat for a face. During the call, Judge Roy Ferguson of Texas’s 394th judicial district told Barrister Rod Ponton: “I believe you have a filter turned on in the video settings.” Ponton’s response was one we might all be able to relate to – “It is. And I don’t know how to remove it. I’ve got my assistant here, she’s trying to, but I’m prepared to go forward with it…I’m here live. I’m not a cat.”

Later that day, Judge Ferguson tweeted, “IMPORTANT ZOOM TIP: If a child used your computer, before you join a virtual hearing check the Zoom Video Options to be sure filters are off. This kitten just made a formal announcement on a case in the 394th (sound on). #lawtwitter #OhNo @zoom_us”

In addition to technical challenges and bloopers, those participating in endless video conversations report that it takes more emotional effort to feign interest. As a result, close-to-constant eye contact is required to focus intently on words alone. In most video calls, multiple people are involved and the image for each is “tiled” across the screen as postage stamp-sized images, which results in not being able to see most of what our brain is hungering for – non-verbal cues, such as body language; emotions; and full face-to-face interaction.

Avoid video call exhaustion with these four simple tips:

  1. Breaks – Schedule them

Start limiting your video calls to 25 or 50 minutes. Not only will the team feel pressured to get more done in less time, but you’ll have time between calls for breaks; to get up, walk around and focus your eyes on something else.

  1. Backgrounds – It’s good to be plain

How many times have you completely lost track of the discussion because you are trying to determine the line-up of books on the host’s shelf? Instead, encourage your video conference participants to use plain backgrounds and ask everyone who is not talking to the group to turn off their video to diminish distractions.

  1. Organization – Crack the whip

Having an agenda and a facilitator can help everyone on the team or in the group, especially the introverts among us, fare a bit better, too. When appropriate, facilitators should kick off the call with a question and then set out who should speak in what order. This process will help ensure that everyone has time to talk and knows when to chime in.

  1. Calls – Go old school

Peruse your calendar with an eye for which video conferences could go “old school” and be replaced by a phone call or an email – especially those interactions near the end of the day.

And, of course, if all else fails, bring in the cats.

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