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Videoconferencing Fatigue and What to Do About It

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As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues into its second year, people have become accustomed to handling most or all of their personal and professional interactions remotely. Videoconferencing has become a normal part of daily life. Videoconferencing fatigue, now commonly called “Zoom fatigue” in reference to one of the most popular videoconferencing platforms, refers to the exhaustion caused by constant video calls. While Zoom fatigue is not yet an official diagnosis, some mental health professionals state that the condition is both real and prevalent in the new pandemic era.

Since Orbit Health providers spend most of their day working from home via videoconference, the pandemic didn’t substantially change our workdays.  We are accustomed to working with patients and colleagues virtually- most psychiatrists report that it has positively transformed their lives, allowing a work-life balance superior to the “rat race” of a typical 9-5 job.   We have had the luxury of easing ourselves into this new mode of virtual work.  The work is stimulating and engaging, and therefore we have not had any reports of Zoom fatigue from our providers.

Nevertheless, those who have suddenly been thrown into the virtual world may experience Zoom fatigue.  As experts in professional videoconferencing and modern solutions, Orbit Health has a few tips for folks to avoid videoconferencing fatigue and work past it when it is triggered.

Why Does Zoom Fatigue Occur?

It’s not just Zoom–constant video calls on any platform, including Google, Skype, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime, and other professional platforms can lead to fatigue. People can start to feel extra irritable, less energized, constantly “on the clock” for work, confused or awkward during meetings, and isolated even while communicating with others. There are scientific reasons for these feelings.

Video calls can make people feel like they are always “on.” People are hyper-aware of their appearance, their mannerisms, the sound of their voice, and they can begin to feel like they are “performing” in a way that is not true of in-person interactions. The silence on the other end of the line when people mute their microphones, delays in response time, as well as the added effort necessary to identify nonverbal cues via video chat, contribute to stress and fatigue as well. Video calls from home also allow us to become easily distracted. When technology fails us–the WiFi goes out, someone’s camera or microphone fails to work, etc.–we can feel even more overwhelmed.

Tips to Avoid Zoom Fatigue

Videoconferencing is likely to be a regular fixture of our personal and professional lives even when the pandemic goes away. Remote professional services like telepsychiatry represent a growing practice across all industries. If you find yourself exhausted by all of the video calls in your life, here are a few tips:

  • Schedule “no meeting” blocks of time. Make sure there are parts of your day when you are away from a screen.
  • Avoid multitasking. When you are on a call, focus on the business of the call. Avoid pulling up a second window to read emails or conduct other work. Multitasking during calls leads to a loss of productivity and difficulty remembering what occurred in the meeting.
  • Take breaks. If your call lasts more than an hour, it is important to take breaks. Get up and walk around, use the restroom, get a glass of water. You will have more energy and remain more productive as a result.
  • Turn off your self-view. Video call programs like Zoom default to displaying your own video as well as others on the call. Staring at your own face can be distracting and increase stress and anxiety. Hide yourself from your own view so you can focus on the other people on the call.
  • Limit on-screen stimuli. In addition to hiding your face and keeping other windows closed, do what you can to limit what you see on-screen. Encourage people to take calls in front of plain backgrounds instead of a room full of objects. Seeing five different rooms full of furniture can cause disorientation and increase mental fatigue.

If you are a healthcare provider or employer who would benefit from a variety of experienced, licensed, and professional psychiatric care specialists, reach out to Orbit Health to discuss your options for telepsychiatry today.

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