Video calls have now become an essential tool for business meetings as well as socialization. In a recent TechRepublic Premium survey, up to 95% of respondents reported that their companies use video conferencing tools. Recording and transcribing remote meetings allows participants to focus on what’s being instead of taking notes. Digital transcription service providers transform the content into a usable format, which can be sent to the attendees or used to create official documentation. However, even as video calls help teams stay connected when working from home, they are tiring out users. Stanford researchers have termed this phenomenon “Zoom fatigue”.
So, what causes video fatigue and how can it be resolved?
Reasons why Video Chat is Harder than Physical Meetings
- Gaze Awareness: During face-to-face communication, a lot of information is conveyed through gaze and facial expressions. Maintaining eye to eye contact is important, but this is difficult in video meetings. If your eyes are not focused on the screen, it can give the impression that you are disinterested or not listening. Compared to a meeting in the office, on a video call you need to work harder to give a person full attention and this can greater fatigue. Trying to continuously keep your gaze in check and maintain eye contact during professional interactions on video calls can be exhausting.
- Natural Conversation is Difficult: On a video call, you need to pay more attention to your body language and tone and pitch of your voice. Focusing on these non-verbal communication cues consumes a lot of energy and also makes it difficult to have a natural conversation.
- Time-Lags and other Technical Issues: It’s common to experience audio delays on video calls due to signal processing and internet bottleneck issues. This silence can send the wrong message and make people anxious. A BBC report references a 2014 study by German researchers which found that even slight delays on phone or conferencing systems made people think of the responder as less friendly or focused. Other possible technical irritants associated with video calls include poor lighting, distracting ambient noises, intermittent screen freezes, unintended muting, and unexpected dropped connections.
- Pressure to Perform: When you are on a video call and constantly being watched, you are under pressure to perform, which can be very stressful. Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University, who studies workplace wellbeing and teamwork effectiveness, explains, “When you’re on a video conference, you know everybody’s looking at you; you are on stage, so there comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform. Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful” (www.bbc.com).
- Seeing Yourself Constantly: Studies show that when you see a reflection of yourself, you are more critical of yourself, says Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL). If people see themselves on camera, it makes them conscious of how they behave which makes spending long hours on video chat taxing and stressful.
Regardless of the advanced technology, spending long hours on video calls at work have impacted quality of life. So how can we reduce Zoom fatigue? Let’s see what experts recommend.
Tips to Ease Video Call Fatigue
- Limit Video Calls to only those that are Essential: Many offices that run multiple weekly meetings offer the option of doing video or audio calls. If you can communicate via a phone call or email, use these options instead of video. Sharing notes and files can help avoid information overload.
- Turn off Self-View: Don’t turn on the camera unless you have to. If it makes your uncomfortable, disable the ability to see yourself during meetings. One expert says that having your screen off to the side, instead of straight ahead, could also improve your concentration in group meetings (www.bbc.com).
- Take Breaks: Whether it’s typing or taking video calls, taking periodical, short breaks is highly recommended. Get up and walk around during meetings. This will reduce stress and fatigue and refresh you.
- Schedule Smaller Conference Calls: If you are calling the meeting, try to schedule video calls with fewer participants. This will make it more effective as it will be easier for people to get their point across. In large meetings, the power of the individual is diminished. Many people may end up talking at the same time and fail to make their point, leading to frustration. If there are more than five people, set rules such as muting to ensure that things go smoothly. You can also make use of breakrooms to facilitate interpersonal discussions.
- Use Visual Aids: Trying to get people to pay attention can be stressful. To improve focus, treat the video meeting like a presentation. Use slides and videos and share your screen to get participants to pay attention.
- Make Meetings Smaller on your Screen: Faces on videoconferencing calls can appear too large, which can be uncomfortable. Bailenson recommends taking Zoom out of full-screen mode and then reducing the size of the window relative to your monitor to minimize face size. Using an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space between you and the screen.
Video meetings supported by audio transcription services have become must-have tools to boost communication in the existing trend toward remote work, and also in a hybrid workplace – a combination of remote and in-person work. Taking steps to manage video call fatigue and improving video conferencing practice is critical to make the most of this tool. Experts are also calling upon videoconference platform designers to make changes that can make video conferencing a less stressful experience.