Why Videoconferencing May Lead to Burnout

BurnoutRise in Virtual Communication

Videoconference services such as Zoom, Cisco Webex, and Google Meet have become almost ubiquitous. According to their blog post, Zoom’s daily users have jumped from 10 million daily users in December 2019 to 300 million daily users in April 2020.[1] The demand for remote communication such as video calls is driving people towards levels of burnout and fatigue previously unseen among this mode of communication. At the end of the day, people just want to untether themselves from the constraints of staring at the screen for hours. What could be causing this?

Effect on Women

One cause is something described as “mirror anxiety”, when constantly looking at one’s reflection triggers unhealthy feelings, or even depression and anxiety.[2] This feature, omnipresent as it is among videoconferencing, affects mental health. According to research, it is more profound among women. The good news is that it can be toggled off.

According to one author, women have also reported feelings of being “stared at” during videoconferences.[3] As it is possible to stare at everyone during a Zoom meeting, instead of just the person speaking during an in-person meeting, it is understandable why these feelings are reported. Self-consciousness and feeling uncomfortable are natural results of this.

While women reported having the same number of meetings a day as men, their meetings, on average, ran longer. They also reported taking less breaks.[4]

Staying Within the Center

Another reason of weariness is the need to stay within the focal point of the camera’s field of view.[5] Staying in the center is quite important in a video call – being off to the side can show a lack of awareness. The fact is we cannot look down on our notes as often as we could in an in-person meeting. When our cameras are turned on, our faces are expected to be visible. That means we cannot lounge in our chairs or sit in some comfortable, relaxing way, that we otherwise could in an in-person meeting, if it means the camera is not within a vicinity or range appropriate to record ourselves. The fact that everyone is recorded means that whatever you do in front of the camera will be seen by practically everyone and can be referenced at a later period.

Distractions

The added stress of being always recorded during videoconference calls can be heightened for those with pets or kids. Employees do not want to deal with an incident of a cat jumping on the desk or on one’s lap, or a dog barking, although it is seen as comical sometimes. Having your kids interrupt your meeting asking for something like food is even more embarrassing and can be topics for gossip.

Multiple Variables

Excessive hours of eye contact we attribute to video calls are quite intense. There are a lot to notice – people’s tone of voices, emotions, facial expressions, etc. These can all be quite distracting. One university professor adds, “We know video conferences are helpful…We get more emotional and nonverbal information from them, but that doesn’t mean everything needs to be done in a video conference”, ultimately referencing phone calls or emails.[6]

Videoconferencing calls are richer forms of communication than phone calls or emails. The catch is that there is more information to absorb and comprehend. An overload of this information is the culprit as to why so many are experiencing fatigue.

Appearance

Even if we are not directly participating in the videoconference calls, such as speaking or offering a suggestion, we are compelled to always look like we are paying attention, or always “on” and alert.[7] Appearance and how others perceive us is important. It is natural to care about this. Thus, we try harder to look good in front of our peers, coworkers, and bosses.

Multitasking

When working remotely, people may feel the need to multitask, or get more done. This can be through checking email or messages. Through multitasking, we devote less attention towards each task, and our retention of information becomes less. Through this behavior we may end up inhibiting our productivity. It is harder to remember what things are said during a video call if a person is doing something else at the same time. Video calls “demand too much of our attention for effective multi-tasking and possibly lead to feelings of frustration.”[8] Understanding what people are saying and why they are saying it during a video call can be important for your work and allow you to participate more to show you understand the subject matter.

Back-to-back videoconferencing calls without breaks in between can also cause or contribute to burnout at a higher rate than usual, partly because we are not giving our minds some rest.[9]

Eye Contact

One article’s author from Forbes has suggested another idea of videoconference fatigue: that we are not really making eye contact. When we look at the other people in the call, our eyes are not really meeting theirs. After all, we are not looking at the camera, but the screen. The result is a level of separation that we otherwise attribute to fatigue. Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence expert, says “We don’t feel as connected…We’re picking up on the lack of direct eye contact even if we don’t quite realize it, and even though it’s only an inch.”[10]

Group Belonging

This may all contribute towards a lack of group belonging. Usually, after in-person meetings, if there is time to spare, people get together and chat about anything. Sports, the weather, what they are doing next week, etc. This does not usually occur with videoconference calls. Frequently, there is no chit-chat or small talk among video calls. This reinforces a sense of a lack of group belonging or connections between others. Forming breakout rooms after videoconference calls is a safe solution towards this, and reinforces group belonging.[11]

Workers’ Compensation

The effects of these sensations and feelings may all contribute towards exhaustion, burnout, depression, and anxiety. Long hours of video calls may also lead people to develop eye strain, soreness, or irritation, and headaches.[12] Burnout may also exacerbate or eventually lead to physical injury. To find out if your symptoms or ill health may be a consequence of work-related conditions, we recommend you contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help you obtain benefits.

[1] Chen, Humphrey. “Combating Workplace Video Fatigue with AI.” Datanami, Datanami, 30 Apr. 2021, www.datanami.com/2021/04/30/combating-workplace-video-fatigue-with-ai/.

[2] Smith, Kate. “Women Experience Higher Levels of ‘Zoom Fatigue’ than Men, Study Finds.” CBS News, CBS Interactive Inc., 21 Apr. 2021, www.cbsnews.com/news/zoom-fatigue-women-higher-men/.

[3] Ibid.

[4] De Witte, Melissa. “Zoom Fatigue Worse for Women, Stanford Study Finds.” Stanford News, Stanford University, 13 Apr. 2021, news.stanford.edu/2021/04/13/zoom-fatigue-worse-women/.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ani. “Video Calls Got You Feeling Fatigued And Exhausted? Here’s Why That’s Happening.” Swirlster, NDTV Convergence, 20 Apr. 2021, swirlster.ndtv.com/wellness/video-calls-got-you-feeling-fatigued-and-exhausted-with-zoom-fatigue-heres-why-thats-happening-2417439.

[7] Fernstrom, Madelyn. “Do You Have ‘Zoom Fatigue’? 7 Ways to Cope.” NBCNews.com, Know Your Value, 16 Apr. 2021, www.nbcnews.com/know-your-value/feature/do-you-have-zoom-fatigue-7-ways-cope-ncna1264326.

[8] Anonymous. “How to Overcome Zoom Fatigue.” WorkersCompensation.com, WorkersCompensation.com, LLC., 5 May 2021, www.workerscompensation.com/news_read.php?id=38677.

[9] Smith, Kate. “Women Experience Higher Levels of ‘Zoom Fatigue’ than Men, Study Finds.” CBS News, CBS Interactive Inc., 21 Apr. 2021, www.cbsnews.com/news/zoom-fatigue-women-higher-men/.

[10] Brandon, John. “The Crazy Reason Why Zoom Fatigue Happens Will Really Surprise You.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Apr. 2021, www.forbes.com/sites/johnbbrandon/2021/04/26/the-crazy-reason-why-zoom-fatigue-happens-will-really-surprise-you/?sh=30f068c27bc3.

[11] Ani. “Video Calls Got You Feeling Fatigued And Exhausted? Here’s Why That’s Happening.” Swirlster, NDTV Convergence, 20 Apr. 2021, swirlster.ndtv.com/wellness/video-calls-got-you-feeling-fatigued-and-exhausted-with-zoom-fatigue-heres-why-thats-happening-2417439.

[12] Anonymous. “How to Overcome Zoom Fatigue.” WorkersCompensation.com, WorkersCompensation.com, LLC., 5 May 2021, www.workerscompensation.com/news_read.php?id=38677.

WorkplaceLawyers.com is the website for the workers compensation attorneys firm of Livingston, DiMarzio LLP Our team of attorneys is made up of New Jersey Mesothelioma Lawyers, NJ Workers Comp Lawyers, Employment Lawyers and Certified New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Attorneys.