Thanks to advances in technology and digital communication, it’s possible to work from home without any communication issues. With video calls, working professionals can take business meetings all day long from the comfort of their own home. However, even though these calls don’t involve any physical exertion, there’s a fatigue that comes after a day spent taking video conference calls one after another.

This intense exhaustion can be referred to as “video meeting fatigue.” It’s one of the many new phrases that have been added to our lexicon in the current remote work environment.

 Video Meeting Fatigue: What Causes It?

The intense fatigue that follows a video conference call is linked to the copious amount of cognitive effort it demands. During face-to-face meetings, unconsciously, we try to pick up on facial cues. Using these indicators, most professionals try to gauge how well the meeting is going. Is the point getting passed? Is someone about to disagree?

However, with a video call, picking up on these visual cues (especially when there are many people on the line) is harder. For starters, the shared eye contact that helps to pick up on these cues is absent. Even if colleagues are raising hands or nodding, keeping track of everybody’s reactions takes substantial mental effort. The slight temporal delay and absence of physical cues mean the brain automatically tries harder to pick up on things that would have otherwise been automatic.

Additionally, video fatigue is brought about by the number of distractions that professionals try to sort through during these meetings. Typically, these distractions are not a factor during physical sessions. As a result, suddenly having to deal with them while remaining productive can be draining. Some popular distractions include:

  • Having to respond to work emails and phone notifications
  • Disruptive pets
  • The presence of other family members
  • Constant worries about one’s physical appearance or the room they are in

In the same vein, the “work from home” premise means that video meetings are mostly scheduled one after the other without a break. After all, nobody has to catch the elevator and head a few floors down to next meeting. However, this increases mental exertion and, consequently, overall fatigue. For most, that gap between physical meetings is a much-needed break that allows for rest and recovery. Since it’s now mostly absent, people who work from home can quickly become exhausted.

To cap it off, the stress and poor sleep that comes after a day of staring at a screen are also causative factors. So, how can busy professionals combat video meeting fatigue?

Proven Tips to Combating Video Fatigue

It’s possible to feel refreshed even after a day of video calls. Here are a few tips to prevent overwhelm.

Stop Multitasking

For most people, video calls feel like the perfect opportunity to tick items off a to-do list, aka multitask. However, in the end, it’s self-sabotage. Research proves that attempting to take on multiple tasks at the same time can result in less productivity and energy.

The science behind this fact is simple. Most professionals don’t know this, but different parts of the brain take on different tasks. As a result, having to make the switch (albeit unconsciously) between tasks that require different parts of the brain takes substantial mental effort. Furthermore, it reduces productivity by as much as 40%.

According to a Stanford study, multitaskers can’t remember things as well as those who remain singularly focused. So, for the next video call, try closing your 10 (or 100) open tabs tabs, video chat boxes, and mute notifications that will distract you.

Take Regular Breaks

During longer video calls, taking a break can make a world of difference. For those that can’t leave the call, minimizing the interface and focusing on voice alone can help. In the same vein, keeping your gaze away from the screen for as much as 30 seconds can be beneficial. Remember that this doesn’t mean that there’s time to do something else. Instead, take these mini-breaks to rest your eyes.

In terms of scheduling, leave at least 15 minutes between each call. We advise people to spend this time taking a relaxing walk outside. Sometimes, it may be impossible to create time for breaks during video meetings. If that’s the case, simply reduce the duration of meetings. It’s worth it — giving yourself even a 10-minute break can make a huge difference.

Reduce Stimuli Received From Computer Screens

As mentioned earlier, the mental fatigue that comes after a video call is made worse by individuals focusing too much on their appearances. A simple hack to make this a non-factor is to hide your personal window from view. This way, you can eliminate any stressful worries about how you look.

However, other forms of distractions can add to mental exhaustion. Stimuli from other people’s screens can be can quite disconcerting. For instance, for a call with five other people, that’s five more backgrounds, furniture, and other visual cues to digest. Trying to process all of these signals at the same time is draining. Therefore, it can be helpful to use plain backgrounds. Also, where possible, try turning off your video unless you’re speaking.

Virtual Get-Togethers Should Be Less Compulsory

Most companies are trying to keep the team spirit up by introducing virtual game nights, social chats, and other online events. However, after a productive (long) day at the home office, these events often have the opposite effect. As a result, it’s best to keep them optional. That way, whoever still has the energy is welcome to join. Conversely, others can take time to rest.

Even if it’s a social video call involving friends and family, it’s possible to still feel exhausted. Mostly, we find that it’s because of the “chaos,” especially with large groups. For situations like this, appointing a facilitator can make things go smoothly. The facilitator can determine when people speak, when to mute microphones, the order for social activities, etc.

Focus On Communicating Via Hive, Calls and Emails

Of course, video conference platforms are absolutely the way of the future, especially in this time of widespread remote work. However, as we’ve proven, after three or four long conference calls, the brain becomes exhausted. In times like this, the tried and tested project management tool, like Hive, email, or phone call can do the trick.

Most of the time, the same meeting can be held via a call, especially if it’s with just one person. If the meeting is a check-in on a project that doesn’t have a lot of moving parts, connecting via an action card in Hive or through Hive chat can be the perfect solution. Hive is great because it provides full visibility into past, current and future projects, access to emails, and chat all-in-one.

Do Video Calls Affect Our Ability to Converse Physically?

Not immediately, it doesn’t. However, after about a month or two of taking one video call after the other, it may start to have an affect on people’s ability to talk to others one-on-one. One scenario where this effect is significantly manifested is the ability to focus.

For most professionals, the last video meeting of the day is always the hardest. To better cope with these meetings, most people zone out. Over time, it’s possible for zoning out to unconsciously seep into physical conversations — especially when we’re tired. When this happens, most professionals find themselves blanking out during physical conversations. That means they lose track of the conversation or have to ask the other party to repeat themselves multiple times.

Thankfully, there’s a simple hack to avoid this becoming a fixture during face-to-face conversations — have as much face time with family and friends as possible. From time to time, instead of taking breaks from video call sessions by taking a walk, speak with friends and loved ones in person. Talk to them, have relaxing conversations. This helps ensure vital communication skills aren’t eroded or lost throughout this period of remote work.

Beat Video Fatigue Today

Video calls make working from home more accessible and productive — we’re no doubt moving into a future where they are vital parts of our day-to-day. However, over long stretches, they can be exhausting, leaving us totally drained at the end of the day. For the best results, follow the tips to combating video fatigue described above. Schedule breaks between calls, reduce on-screen stimulus, try a project management tool, take calls where possible, and spend time in-person with family members and friends.

If you want to take communication off-video completely, we’d recommend trying a project management tool, like Hive, for your team today. Here’s a link to access a 14-day free trial.