Video call fatigue: effects, psychology and management

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In the modern world, more people than ever can work from home. As part of this process, more and more companies are using video calls to communicate with colleagues and organize meetings. This has led to a phenomenon called video call fatigue.

The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported in May 2020 that the approach 50% of employed adults worked from home. Others report similar statistics around the world.

This change is a direct result of social distancing measures that governments have introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, some people argue that this paves the way for even more working from home in the future. Businesses that may not have made working from home easier before have had to make it work and can continue to do so.

But with working from home comes video calling and the potential for fatigue from video calling.

Read on to find out more.

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Eye awareness, limited attention, and technical issues can contribute to video call fatigue.

With more and more people using video calling as their primary method of staying in touch, a phenomenon known as video call fatigue has become more prevalent.

In some cases, people find that they feel more exhausted when working from home than when working in the office. This exhaustion is even the case after taking into account a long commute to work.

Video calls can affect our mental health in several ways, and the fatigue they cause is one that many people can struggle with.

Learn more about how video calls affect mental health here.

Many psychological events that are not present in a person’s typical day-to-day business life affect the frequency of video calling.

Thanks to video calls and the psychology behind them, these psychological events are causing what people have now dubbed ‘Zoom fatigue. ‘ Zoom Fatigue takes its name from popular video calling apps.

Awareness of the gaze

In person, when two or more people are having a conversation, eye contact is made.

On a video call, people also want to look into the eyes of the person they’re talking to. However, the camera is not located in the same location as the person it is talking to.

This computer hardware fact means that people will always appear to be looking away, despite their best efforts to make eye contact.

This lack of eye contact can make people seem like they’re not being listened to, causing frustration with their peers.

In 2000, researchers called this phenomenon awareness of the gaze.

Limited attention

In an office meeting, a person can doodle; they can look out the window or look around the room. These things can be slightly coarse normally, but can look even coarser in a video call scenario.

In fact, it can also be easier to lose focus on a video call than it is to lose focus in an actual meeting.

A person can continue to send emails during a video call. They may try to do other work tasks at the same time, which might cause them to not pay attention to the video call.

To be able to give a person’s full attention to the video call, they have to work harder, which can lead to more fatigue.

Technical problems

There are also many technical issues that can arise when using video calls that would not be present in actual meetings.

Internet speed may be interrupted or slow, causing lag. This means that a person may find themselves frozen on the screen or unable to be heard by others.

This transmission delay can cause frustration and make the conversation impossible to continue. When a person has to repeat themselves, it can be tiring.

Performance pressure

In a video call, more than a face-to-face conversation, people are very aware that others are watching them.

This self-awareness can cause people to feel pressured to present themselves in a certain way, which is not the case in office meetings.

Maintaining a high level of screen performance can be tiring and lead to video call fatigue.

Also, usually during a video call, a person can see themselves in a small box in the corner of their screen. This can make them complex and divert their attention from the meeting.

What else is going on in a person’s house during a video call can also make them embarrassed.

An example of this could be children playing or loud in the background.

Screen time

Even when video calls are meant to connect with friends and family, spending even more time in front of a screen can seem like the last thing someone wants to do.

In the office, a person can stand up and move away from the screen. At home, however, they may feel like they’re not as productive as they are, so take fewer breaks in front of their computer screens.

Adding extra screen time for recreation into the mix can contribute to fatigue and irritability.

Video call fatigue can make otherwise satisfied people anxious and can increase anxiety levels in those who are already experiencing such feelings.

Fatigue from video calls can cause people to feel overwhelmed when they usually wouldn’t, resulting in increased fatigue and even burnout.

Learn more about fatigue and exhaustion here.

There are a number of ways that there are a number of ways that users can try to limit video call fatigue, as follows:

  • Limit video calls to those that are necessary: It can be tempting to turn everything into a video call to try and mimic office work, but it can often do more harm than good. While a meeting can take place via a phone call or even an email, people may find these options less tiring. Video calling isn’t always the most effective option, and people should keep this in mind when scheduling meetings or wanting to share information.
  • Take breaks: People need to make sure that they regularly schedule short breaks away from the computer and between video calls when working from home. Several video calls in a row without any kind of relief in between can cause fatigue and make someone feel bored.
  • Organize smaller conference calls: Having fewer people on each call can mean each person has more time to talk. When there are too many people trying to speak at the same time, it may happen that no one can get their point across. This can cause frustration and irritability. It also means that the meeting can seem like a waste of time.
  • Establish rules: Setting guidelines, such as everyone to mute their microphone when not speaking, can help keep things running smoothly.

Video calls are a useful way to stay in touch with friends, family, and coworkers without having to be physically in one place.

However, too many video calls can cause video call fatigue.

It’s essential that people make sure they don’t let video calls negatively impact their mental health.

It’s important to remember that a video call is not the same as an in-person meeting, and everyone needs to work together to navigate these new sets of social norms.


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