Though many people were already in the work-from-home mindset even before COVID19, for others it's a different ball game. Daily tasks are combined with more and more meetings than ever, and now, thanks to technology, those meetings can be had through video calls. Yet, many times though they can be avoided, they're somehow not, causing a lot of added stress in people, leading them to a higher risk of burnout.
Technostress vs Zoom-fatigue
The term technostress was coined by Craig Bord in 1984 who wanted to name the stress and negative psychological impact generated by introducing new technologies to the work environment.
Zoom is only one of many tools available to make the calls, but it's certainly the most popular one, hence the name: Zoom-fatigue. The name came up in recent weeks in response to something that was bothering many people during the pandemic, now having to deal with social video calls on top of many more work video calls than usual. Zoom-fatigue encompasses some stressors that form technostress: Invasion – "My home is now my work, the bar, the family table, my kid's playdate space" . Overload – “I can’t keep up with all these work calls and my kid's homework!”. Insecurity – “If they don't see me in a professional attire they will think I'm not serious enough about this job”
If this rings any bells, we'd recommend you head to this anonymous and self-assessed test to check your burnout risk. If you keep an eye on it, it could really make a difference in your overall mental well-being.
Why so many video calls?
With a lot of companies downsizing and furloughing their employees, there seems to be an extra pressure to over perform. So, in an attempt to stay present and on the loop, many meetings are called by people to prove themselves still useful and valuable during this time of uncertainty.
On top of work calls, social distancing rules are making it harder to socialize like we used to, so groups of friends set up these calls to keep the friendship kindle alive and sparkly, family virtual birthdays and sunday brunches, to name a few. The problem is that these calls might be planned for the end of the day when you're already exhausted from work meetings, or over the weekend when the last thing you might want is to hear the chime from a zoom call. So, fun as they may intend to be they end up bringing more, many times unconscious, stress.
5 tips on what to do to not completely lose it when the exhaustion from over using video calls hits.
There are a few things to act on to try to reduce the stress that comes from over exposure to video calls.
1.Turn off the camera
Unless specifically stated, there's really no reason for having the camera on in every single of these meetings. This will allow you to get rid of the pressure of having to be "office-presentable" when circumstances have changed and maybe you were rushing all morning getting your kids fed and entertained before you got to actual work, even if that means your living room.
Also, having the camera off allows you to have your laptop facing another way, giving you a much needed break from the screens, and perhaps even focus better without giving out the impression that because you're looking elsewhere you are not paying attention.
Not wanting to share with your whole office your bad hair day should be reason enough to be able to turn the camera off.
2.Turn off self-view
If turning the camera is not an option, some video call tools allow to turn off self view. If we see a reflection of ourselves, we can't help but to be looking at ourselves, it's human nature. This will allow you to stay focused on the call and it may also help others focus as well, because we are able to see the home environments of our coworkers, discover a little bit about them, but those calls are not meant for that. If these calls are treated like an old-fashioned conference call, things should run smoothly and provide a techno-rest for your brain. Not possible? How about everybody matches a background photo and for the rest of the meeting you are all in the surface of the moon, or maybe a sunny beach!
3.Avoid them when possible
If after a couple of weeks you noticed that the overflow of these video calls is proving inconvenient, if possible, ask if some of these meetings could be solved with a Mural board, a chat room or better yet, an email. A Monday status and planning meeting could be a great place to voice these issues, and we bet a lot of your coworkers may agree.
Yes, it's tempting, but don't fall for it! If you're able to shut your camera off, don't jeopardize your focus on the meeting by tab surfing and doing other stuff. Shut down messaging apps, and anything else that can prove to be distracting. You know what's worse than attending a meeting that could have been an email? Attending that meeting, getting distracted by unnecessary things, missing information and having to call for another meeting.
5.Make virtual social events opt-in.
Sure, human contact and socializing is necessary, especially during these times. But sometimes it can be a bit too much if we're overloaded with multiple other meetings. Be it a virtual cocktail hour with coworkers or friends, if you're in charge of organizing it, make it clear that there's no pressure to join. People are navigating these new times however they can, and circumstances are quite different for everybody, some people have many work engagements during the week, some have families to pay attention to, just to name a few. Nobody wants to go through a pandemic and FOMO on top of that.
We are all in this together
When things seem too overwhelming, take a moment to realize that we are all in this together. Find a way to navigate through all of this that best suits your particular needs. Some companies may be more flexible than others, some might be struggling more than you know to figure it all out. In the meantime, use tools like Talkit to stay aware of your emotions, keep track of them and act on them to change anything that's bothering you when possible.