By Wilma Bedford
The beginning of the new year is the ideal time to make changes to video conferencing so as to combat fatigue and gain respondents’ support in this regard.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to less visits to the office, we are making more use of video calls and Zoom meetings. One would expect this fast and modern way of communication – most probably from your home office – to be less stressful than the typical face-to-face communication as at the office, yet the physical distance causes uncertainty and conflicting emotions.
It has been found that a video call is more stressful because you cannot relax as with a normal conversation and to decipher the other person’s non-verbal language takes longer and causes stress. Video contact requires more focus. You have to work harder to process facial expressions, the tone of voice and body language.
Silences and pauses that occur naturally in a normal conversation also become a source of stress as parties don’t know whether or not the silences are due to technological lulls and cause people to talk over one another, or lead to more polite pauses that could derail a conversation. Research has also found that a pause as short as 1.2 seconds during a phone or video conversation can be interpreted by the respondent as negative: the respondent will consequently be unfriendly or not interested.
With the video camera focused on you, you are pressured to put your best foot forward; you are on the stage, as it were, and have to perform and it’s difficult not to be self-conscious in front of the merciless camera.
As it this was not enough, our pandemic circumstances compel us to use this new technology. If you aren’t technologically proficient, the danger exists that you could appear to be unintelligent, incompetent and stupid when you aren’t able to solve technological problems.
A further stressor is that all aspects of our lives – our work, friends and family – now function in one place. When our normal social roles, relationships, activities and aims are restricted, we become more susceptible to negative thoughts and emotions.
Most of our social roles and interaction take place in different places, but these places – the lunch bar, the gym and the coffee shop – have now been restricted and replaced by a computer screen. The fact that now these places and healthy socialisation are out of bounds, causes stress. Add to this the longer hours you already have to spend in front of the computer to avoid being fired.
You could join online chat groups, but this will not lead to stress being relieved if you feel obligated to log in – for example during a virtual happy hour with colleagues. It remains a virtual meeting and can feel impersonal.
How do you decrease Zoom fatigue?
Limit video calls to the absolute necessary and ask yourself if there aren’t more effective options, for examples work files with a supporting note avoid information overload. Then there is the old-school, friendly, personal letter in which you reach out to someone and make contact – and know your contact is not untimely.
A short, informal conversation with colleagues before the meeting starts, builds and maintains contact and lessens stress and fatigue.
Build in pauses for yourself, a time in which you can do stretch exercises of take a quiet coffee break. Create boundaries between your work persona and your private persona and keep them separate.
Lessen onscreen stimuli. Zoom and video communication requires you to stare at the respondent, which makes you feel uncomfortable and exhaust you; during face-tot-face communication you can briefly look out the window or at another person in the room. On video you focus not only on the other person’s face, you also see the respondent’s background – his furniture, titles on his bookshelf and his pets. To prevent unnecessary distraction, request participants to sit against a plain or restful background, or even better, to switch off their videos when not speaking.
How to Combat Zoom Fatigue
Fosslien, L. Duffy, M. April 29, 2020. https://hbr.org/2020/04/how-to-combat-zoom-fatigue#
The reason Zoom calls drain your energy
Why are you so slow? – Misattribution of transmission delay to attributes of the conversation partner at the far-end. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, vol. 72(5):477-487. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1071581914000287