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Brought to you by Bupa Global
Since Hong Kong’s third wave of COVID-19, using video-calling services like Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom have become the norm for many people’s working and social lives. While they’re a great way to stay connected remotely, the increased time spent on video calls can make us feel utterly drained. Juliet Hodges, behaviour change adviser at Bupa UK, explains the reasons behind this kind of exhaustion, and some tips to combat it.
It takes a lot of subconscious effort to process the faces and voices of multiple people at once through the lens of a screen. Only seeing people from the shoulders up means we miss a lot of non-verbal communication, such as hand gestures or fidgeting. Low video quality can also make it much harder to understand facial expressions. All of this forces our brains to work overtime as it tries to fill in the gaps in information, which wouldn’t be a problem if we were interacting face-to-face.
There can be other reasons too. When our own video is on, we grow more self-aware about how we’re coming across, and what we look like. That’s not only distracting but creates another layer of self-conscious thinking we don’t usually have in person.
Constantly dialling in from your laptop means you’re at your desk more, with fewer chances for you to get up and stretch those sore legs. Whereas if you’re in the office, you can move between meetings or pace up and down when you’re on calls. No wonder your body is aching as you’re sitting in the same position all day!
Even after work, there are also video calls with family and friends, for health appointments, exercise, and online learning. Being on the computer all day really adds to the general sense of screen fatigue. That being said, video calling is still essential during these times, so here are some tips to tackle video call fatigue.
If you are on a group video call, try taking mini-breaks from your screen by briefly switching off your camera while someone else is talking. Feel free to look away from your computer for a few seconds at a time too—don’t worry, nobody will notice.
Be kind to your eyes, and try to block out some time in between meetings to give them a rest. And on days where you have back-to-back calls, see if any of them can be done with the camera switched off—your colleagues will probably be grateful for the respite, too.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth pausing to think about whether this new norm is always the best option. In some work situations, a video call may feel intrusive, especially if you’re communicating with someone for the first time. If that’s you, perhaps suggest to have the conversation over the phone or email instead.
When you’re feeling particularly drained from all your video calls, give yourself a break and see if you can move your call to a later time, or even another day. Are there any regular video catch-up calls with friends or family you could swap to a phone call? That way, you can head out for a stroll at the same time, killing two birds with one stone.
As most of us work from home, the number of meetings have also increased. However, some evidence suggests that too many meetings can in fact negatively affect productivity.
It may be tempting to field all those calls and emails en masse to prove how hard you’re working, but it’s important to make time for tasks that require deeper thought. Carve out some time in your day to focus on these and get those brain juices flowing, or else they’d be completely dried up at the end of a long day of calls.
When you’re on a call, be aware of distractions such as your phone and email inbox. Concentrate on the conversation in front of you: Research has found that people who multitask can’t remember things as well as those who are singularly focused.
If you think you’re getting more work done by replying to emails as you call, think again; switching between tasks can result in you losing up to 40 percent of your productive time. So turn off your notifications during intervals where you need to concentrate!
Finally, spend time away from your monitor. We know you’ve (grudgingly) formed an unbreakable bond with your computer by now, but staring at the screen for long periods of time can cause problems such headaches, stress, and poor sleep.
Going out for a walk every day and getting fresh air can really help to restore your energy levels. Or if you prefer to stay indoors, try doing some stretches or breathing exercises, ideally somewhere away from your desk.