How to beat virtual meeting fatigue

virtual fatigue

It was the perfect solution to the pandemic, but now video conferencing is leaving us exhausted. Lifecare shares our top tips to lessen the draining effects of virtual communication

Video conferencing is now the norm in both our work and social lives, but if you’re finding yourself avoiding, dreading or exhausted by online meetings – you’re not alone. Virtual fatigue is very real, and that’s because our bodies have to work harder to effectively communicate online.

As social creatures, so much of what humans are expressing in a conversation is non-verbal. What is being said is only part of what the brain focuses on, the rest come via cues in our behaviours such as facial expressions, hand gestures, whether a person is turned toward or away from you, if they are fidgeting, or if they are preparing to interrupt by taking a sharp intake of breath for example.

“A typical video call impairs these ingrained abilities, and requires sustained and intense attention to words instead,” professor of cyberpsychology at Norfolk State University, Andrew Franklin, recently told National Geographic. “Prolonged eye contact has become the strongest facial cue, and it can feel threatening or overly intimate if held too long. Multi-person screens or using the ‘gallery view’ magnify this exhaustive problem even further, challenging the brain’s central vision and forcing it to ‘decode’ so many people at once that no one comes through meaningfully, not even the speaker.”

Virtual meetings may have their drawbacks, but the pros far outweigh the cons as we continue to navigate the pandemic. So how can we ensure we use them productively?

Find a schedule that works for you

If you have control over your schedule, or parts of it, structure your online meetings to when you’ll be most engaged. Perhaps setting one day of the week aside suits you best, ensuring you have breaks to decompress in between, or maybe you prefer to block a couple of hours in the morning, leaving the rest of the day to focus on completing tasks.

Set and follow an agenda

Don’t let your online meetings run over the allocated time you have scheduled them for, which will force you to stick to key discussion points that must be ticked off in order for the meeting to be successful. Set and share an agenda with all participants prior to the meeting, so that everyone knows what is expected from them, and what will be covered.

Let’s not forget the phone call

If you’ve fallen into a pattern of using online platforms for all meetings, remind yourself that this is not the only way to communicate! A simple phone call, text message or email can be received or answered anywhere, and allows the recipient flexibility and thinking time to respond to you properly – without the added pressure video conferencing brings.

Sources: Forbes, Healthline, National Geographic.