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Zoom call fatigue is real, here’s why that happens

by Vrinda Jain
Zoom call fatigue is real, here’s why that happens

January 27, 2021

If you think you are the only one who hates video calls, you might be in for a surprise. Recently, on Blind, a popular anonymous network for professionals, a user-submitted poll was curated to gauge general engagement on video calls. The poll titled, "How engaged are you in most work meetings?" was submitted by an engineer at a VMware. More than 4,600 users responded to the poll, and 6,123 provided additional commentary on their personal experiences during these meetings. Zoom Fatigue is real!

Here is Why Zoom Calls Tire You!

Deprivation of the outside world and sitting in front of laptops screen for hours has literally clenched the energy out of us over the past year. Being on a video call takes way more attention than a face-to-face physical conversation. Video calls require you to work harder to decode non-verbal cues like facial expressions, vocal inflexion and pitch, and body language. And paying more attention means that you spend more energy on these virtual meetings.

In any form of digital communication, while our minds are together, our bodies tend to believe that we are not (which is actually true). The discordance causes people to have contradictory feelings and leads to exhaustion. But of course, you can’t relax in any conversation, virtual or physical.

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Obstruction of Mental Comfort in Digital Meets

Silence is a significant obstacle in digital communication. While it provides a natural rhythm for real physical conversation, silence on online calls makes the participants naturally conscious of something-gone-wrong. It simply makes everyone uncomfortable.

A 2014 study by German academics found that delays in telephone or conferencing systems had a detrimental impact on people’s perception of the person on the other end of the call. Delays of even 1.2 seconds made people feel that the respondent was less polite or concentrated.

Moreover, if you’re physically on tape, you become conscious of being watched. So, when you’re on a video call, you know everyone’s staring at you, you’re the main focus. Due to this, social pressure comes seeps in the ecosystem of a digital call, and you feel the pressure of performance in what is supposed to be a natural routine conversation.

The focus obstruction

The dilemma of online video calls is never ending because it is easier than ever to lose concentration. You may try to focus and listen, but ultimately, the urge to check the inbox, text a friend, or post a smiley face to relax from the long calls is overpowering. In effect, you don’t end up listening to a lot when we’re busy, or rather distracted from the subject matter, on other digital features of your phone or computer.

Adding fuel to the fire is a lot of our home-based job circumstances. No matter how hard you try to find an obscure corner in your home for an uninterrupted call, some form of intrusion is unavoidable. Your family member might walk in on your meeting, or your dog might brace the frame, it’s challenging to have a private place to work in homes (yes, we see the irony as well).

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Pandemic Has Made It Worse

If video chats come with extra stress factors, our zoom exhaustion cannot be due to that alone. Our present conditions – lockdown, quarantine, a raging pandemic and economic distress– feed into our exhaustion, both mental and physical.

The video call is a reminder of the people we missed temporarily. It’s a distress that any time one sees someone online, such as your friends or a loved one becomes a reminder that we need to be together in the workplace. We’re all exhausted; it doesn’t matter if they’re introverts or extroverts.

Lack of rest after completing our work and family duties may be another factor is our tiredness. Simultaneously, some of us may be imposing higher demands on ourselves due to economic problems, temporary layoffs and job losses.

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Online meetings more tiring than face-to-face ones.

Theory of Self-Complexity

The theory of self-complexity indicates that individuals have many facets – context-dependent social roles, relationships, behaviours and objectives – and that diversity is good. If these things are minimised, we become more vulnerable to negative feelings.

“Zoom fatigue” is the result of how we interpret data through video. The only way we can show our attention to a video call is to look at the camera. But, in real life, how often would you stand within three feet of a co-worker and stare at his face? Probably never.

It’s because having to indulge in a “constant gaze” makes us uncomfortable—and tired. In-person, we can look out the window or look at others in the room. On a video call, because we’re all sitting in different homes, if we turn to look out the window, it might seem like we’re not paying attention.

How Can We Alleviate Our Zoom Fatigue?

While the situation is going to remain grim as far as a return to normalcy is concerned, but while working remotely you certainly can adopt some methods that are helpful in reducing the stress induced by digital meetings and calls.

Some of the most useful ones are the following.

Turn Off the Camera

Experts suggest reducing video calls to those that are needed. Turning on the camera should be optional and, there should be more understanding that cameras do not have to always be on during each meeting. Holding your screen off to the side, instead of straight ahead, may also help you focus, particularly in group meetings. It makes you feel like you’re in the adjacent room so that you can feel less tired.

Stop Multitasking

Research shows that attempting to do several tasks at once cuts into results. Since you have to turn some brain area off and on for various tasks, switching between tasks will cost you as much as 40% of your productive time. Stanford researchers found that people who have many roles cannot recall details and their more uniquely oriented peers.

Next time you’re on a video call, close any tabs or applications that could interrupt you, remove your phone, and stay seated.

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So many video conferences is exhausting during isolation has spawned a surprising new problem.

Take Breaks and Relax

You are taking mini-breaks during longer calls by minimising the display, shifting it back to your open apps, or just looking away from your screen for a few seconds now and then. Now, we’re all more used to being on camera or days where you can’t stop back-to-back calls.

During this time, consider taking breaks for 25 or 50 minutes to allow yourself enough time in between to get up and walk for a while. If you’re on an hour-long video call, make it all right for people to switch off their cameras for portions of the market.

Reduce Screen Time

Research shows that you appear to spend the most time watching your face when you’re on camera. This can be easily avoided by hiding or keeping the camera off. Yet, onscreen distractions go way beyond a person. You may be shocked to learn that on video, we concentrate not just on others’ faces, but also their backgrounds.

The brain has to process all of these visual and environmental elements at the same time. To combat mental exhaustion, allow a person to use plain backgrounds, or agree as a group to make someone who is not talking turn off their camera.

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Technologies That Can Make Humans Interaction Better

As we know, the ancestors of technology were handsets and old computer systems, and back then, one could only have speculated how they would evolve. Let’s look at how modern technology can develop and shed light on new technologies emerging with their application in line with human interaction and communication.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality provides human beings with an interactive experience in a three-dimensional digital world. It’s a creative advancement into our objective reality—a virtual space where our fantasies run wild. Once thought of as mere science fiction, it is now a widely used commercial product model for the masses. Some of the popular virtual reality headsets include Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Valve Index.

Augmented Reality

As virtual reality attempts to separate ourselves from the physical world and transport us into a virtual one augmented reality aims to merge the two worlds, working in tandem. Highlighted in Microsoft’s presentation of its augmented reality prototype; HoloLens introduced a headset that allowed its user to view digital information holographically in the virtual space surrounding it. 

Some of the features seen were: pinning expandable web pages, files, applications and video players on real-life walls, even transforming a plain wooden table by holographically inserting Minecraft’s digital video game on physical space.

5G Internet

The future technology that enhances connectivity and interaction, as we have noticed, continues its dependency on internet access. As future communication becomes more visual; more information is used to create these texts, which corresponds to the need to pass higher bandwidth loads between users wirelessly. 

If we want our live streams and virtual worlds to run smoothly, we’re going to need high-speed internet. 5G is designed to offer a high-speed wireless service that you can connect to on the go. The most crucial benefit of connectivity and interaction that I see comes from 5G in response to the technologies I’ve described is live streaming.

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Zoom fatigue has been used to label the feelings of exhaustion, tiredness, and distractedness during or after video calls.

Artificial Intelligence

Looking back on our history, the liberation from oppressive industrial labour, and the emergence of widespread cognitive work, is primarily due to the introduction of automation in computers since machines were no longer reliant on human intervention and could operate independently, moving the pressure away from humans and allowing us more leeway to do work that favours human imagination.

Today we have AI (Artificial Intelligence) that support us in daily tasks such as obtaining answers to questions from a digital database such as Google Search Engine, Amazon’s Alexa Voice Assistant and Satellite Navigation.

Automation of AI currently at work means providing a dramatic effect on human communication and contact within today’s culture, as did the automation of machines with the post-industrial society. Auto companies such as Tesla invest their resources in their car’s developments that can drive solely without human intervention and rely on AI to power the vehicles.

Nevertheless, in these trying times, do not overburden yourself with extra stress and excessive technology because there’s only so much that a human being can take, with  raging pandemic and economic crisis already chasing you. 

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