Before the pandemic, the number of daily Zoom users peaked at 10 million. That number has since exploded to over 300 million—and Zoom’s market value now surpasses the top seven airlines combined at nearly $50 billion.
It’s no big surprise that organizations have leaned into video conferencing during quarantine—especially internally. But what many people have been surprised to see is the toll that video meeting after video meeting has taken on productivity and engagement.
Now, the challenge has become how we can mitigate this digital fatigue without abandoning the closest approximation to face-to-face interaction we have.
After helping our law firm and association clients transition to working from home over the past year, we began fielding many questions about how to navigate this new territory. We've compiled our advice to them below.
Why we get so exhausted from video calls
When we made the quick shift to working from home in March, we had hoped that video conferencing would help solve the challenge of keeping our teams connected while we were physically separated. After a couple months with our calendars full of Zoom and Teams calls, we’ve now found that video conferencing brings its own issues to the table.
Between very subtle delays in communication, staring at your own face, having dozens of different environments to take in, and seeing other participants so “up close” that it begins to trigger fight-or-flight response, video conferencing confuses our brains and leaves us drained.
This means that simply swapping in-person interactions with video conferencing at a one-to-one ratio will not work.
It can be a challenge to figure out the right balance when it comes to video conferencing; in a classic Goldilocks scenario, it’s easy to negatively impact engagement by having too much, or too little digital face time.
Some best practices to consider are:
1- Share tips to reduce distractions. A few people in your organization might have heard of tips like hiding your own camera view, having a plain background in the camera view, and scheduling breaks between meetings. Make sure the rest of your team can take advantage of these suggestions, too.
2- Remind your leadership to consider the individual. Most teams are a collection of different personality types; some may welcome impromptu video calls, and others may find them invasive to the point where the call will not be productive. Take the time to learn these preferences and maximize your effectiveness.
3- Set company-wide guidelines for when video is necessary, and when it isn’t. Not every meeting needs to be a video conference with mandatory camera use. One-on-one check-ins probably should be, for the sake of additional body language cues. But perhaps your regular department huddles can be over the phone so your team can be up and moving around.
5 - Step away from the machine! Whether it’s because of a barrage of video calls, or simply the nature of your day-to-day activities, it’s so important to get up, walk around, and give our eyes a break from screens throughout the day. Encourage your team to do so!
4 - Experiment and collect feedback. Remember that an all-virtual team is new territory for 84% of organizations; we aren’t likely to get everything right the first time. Be willing to try new ways to engage with your teammates, collect feedback on effectiveness, and adapt your approach accordingly. If nothing else, employees will clearly see the effort you’re making to connect in a meaningful way.
Also be aware that conferencing platforms are fully aware of how video fatigue is affecting us, and that they are taking their own steps to combat the issue. Teams, for example, released a new feature called “Together” that eliminates individual boxes and puts your teammates in the same virtual space, theater-style.
Experiment with these new features too, and let us know how we can help!