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The Video Conference Fatigue: Is too much video conferencing bad for mental health?



Have you been in a situation in which you have to attend virtual meetings all day and you start to feel exhausted by the end of the day? You are not alone. Over thousands of people are dealing with the “video conference fatigue”, a term that was coined during the pandemic when there was an increased usage of video conferencing. Little did we know that this can cause damage to our mental health. Follow, Trish, Marketing Executive as we uncover the reasons why people feel tired after a long day of virtual meetings and find out ways to overcome it.


Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Having to attend the endless back-to-back virtual meetings that at times, can be unproductive and leaving us feeling tired. As much as we want to take a break, these virtual meetings are unavoidable as it has replaced traditional face-to-face meetings due to the pandemic. These virtual meetings have skyrocketed during the pandemic, with hundreds of millions happening daily to stay connected while being physically apart. However, the real question that underlies the whole issue on the video conference fatigue is “Is too much video conferencing bad for mental health?”


What causes video conference fatigue and how to overcome it?

Video conference fatigue is a phenomenon that was developed during the pandemic when there was a surge in the usage of video calls as a method to stay connected with others. As virtual meetings are a norm now and are being conducted daily, more and more people are feeling exhausted from having to attend these virtual meetings. Unknowingly, this can affect one’s mental health that one may struggle with. According to a popular study done by Standford Virtual Human Interaction Lab , there are 4 primary reasons on why people feel exhausted for attending too much virtual meetings and it will be discussed in this article.


1. We don’t want to be scrutinize. Solution: Turn off full-screen mode.


In a normal face-to-face meeting, people will be focusing on the presenter and taking down important notes, whereas for video conference meetings, everyone is free to look at all attendees without them knowing. This intensifies the excessive amount of close-up contact and hence eye contact gradually increase in these video conference meetings. Even though you are not presenting or speaking, people will still be looking at you in the meeting which can lead to a stressful experience. At times, faces on video conference meetings can appear too large for one’s comfort and these situations can affect ones’ mental health, sending mixed signals. In order to overcome this issue, one can reduce the size of the video conferencing window relative to minimize face size.


(Image source: https://blogs.poly.com/new-functionalities-to-microsoft-teams-core-features)


2. We don’t like to see ourselves all the time. Solution: Hide self-view window.


Seeing yourself during video conference meetings constantly in real time can make you tired as many video conferencing platforms show what you look like on a camera throughout the entire meeting. This can be taxing for most of us as it can cause negative emotional consequences as you become more critical of yourself. In order to mitigate this issue, video conferencing software such as Zoom has the function in which you can hide your self-view with just a click of the button. You can no longer see the video of yourself even though others in the meeting can see you.


(Image source: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362653-How-Do-I-Spotlight-A-Speaker-?mobile_site=true)



3. We’re stuck in the same spot for hours. Solution: Take small breaks.


Video conference meetings dramatically reduce our usual mobility. Unlike face-to-face meetings, attending a video conference meeting requires one to stay on the same spot for hours, depending on the number of meetings one has in a day. This restricts one’s movements and might make one feel uncomfortable. Furthermore, people can perform better cognitively if they are moving instead of staying stationary for hours. What one can do to overcome this issue is to take a small break in between meetings by turning one’s camera off. For those presenting, it would be good to set ground rules that allows the attendees to have small breaks every half an hour during these virtual meetings.


(Image source: https://zoom.us/accessibility)


4. We use up our energy to exaggerate body language. Solution: Face away from the screen.


Cognitive load is much higher in video conference meetings because we need to listen closely to the presenter and to make an important point, one must exaggerate their nonverbal cues. For example, if one agrees with a certain idea in the meeting, there is a need to exaggerate a nod or put their thumbs up, unlike face-to-face interactions where you can just read off from the person’s nonverbal cues. This adds on to the cognitive load as you have to use the extra mental energy to communicate with others in the virtual meeting. To overcome this issue, it is a good practice to give yourself a break during long stretches of meetings by turning your body away from the screen. You can gaze at the wall or even the window outside instead of just the computer screen.



Striking a balance


Overall, too much video conference meetings can take a toll on one’s mental health based on the reasons discussed above. Unfortunately, we can’t escape virtual meetings forever but what is important now is to have a strike in balance when it comes to video conferencing meetings. As more people are allowed to return to the office, more face-to-face meetings can be conducted but with social distancing measures in place. Having a mix of virtual and in-person meetings will help to reduce the video conferencing fatigue one might experience. Other than having a mixture of virtual and in-person meetings, it will be a good practice to limit video conference meetings to only those that are necessary as some can be done over the phone or through email.


With that being said, it is important to take care of one’s mental health as it can affect one’s productivity. Video conferencing software like Zoom have taken this into consideration and came up with features that will help to reduce one’s tiredness such as the “hide-self-view" button. This enables one to hide their own video, so users don’t have to see themselves, but others can see them during the meeting.


Contact ESCO at esco@esco.com.sg if you would like to have a discussion around mitigating video conference fatigue today.


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