You know that feeling when you’ve spent way too much time in virtual meetings, and you’d trade your favourite coffee mug for some real face-to-face interaction? That’s called Zoom fatigue.
It turns out there’s scientific evidence to back up what we’ve all been feeling.
Recently, researchers from Austrian universities decided to take a closer look at the impact of video conferencing on our bodies and minds. They strapped participants with EEG and ECG monitors and went to town with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and similar platforms.
The results were eye-opening.
Brain signal frequency, as measured by EEG, showed a noticeable increase in higher-level frequencies associated with concentration, attention, and stress during online meetings compared to in-person encounters. So, it’s not just your imagination – those video calls are really making you work extra hard to stay focused.
Additionally, the study revealed changes in heart rate variability, indicating ongoing signs of fatigue throughout the course of an online meeting.
Before you swear off video meetings forever, it’s essential to consider the study’s context. The participants were university students, not corporate warriors, and the study was conducted on campus, not from cosy home offices. So, there might be some variations based on age and environment.
However, the key takeaway is that communicating face-to-face versus through a screen can have a significant impact on the human body. So, even if you’re not a 24-year-old student on a University campus, video conferencing fatigue is a real thing.
Online Meeting Tips
What can businesses do if they want to keep the benefits of video conferencing without driving their employees up the virtual wall? Here are a few ideas:
- Use collaboration tools
- Swap some online calls for in-person meetings
- Keep video calls short
- Schedule breaks in long meetings
- Leave a gap between meetings, where possible
- Schedule meetings respectfully
- Observe good meeting etiquette
- Build in opportunities for exercise.
Consider using collaboration tools like Teams, Slack, or even good old-fashioned email to reduce the need for real-time video meetings. Give your team the flexibility to respond when it suits them best.
If possible, schedule in-person meetings when it’s safe and practical to do so. Nothing beats the personal touch of a face-to-face conversation, and it’s a refreshing break from the virtual world.
The simplest solution can often be the most effective. Have an open conversation with your employees about their preferences for communication. Some may thrive in video meetings, while others may prefer written updates or phone calls.
When you do schedule video meetings, keep them short and sweet. Avoid back-to-back calls and allow time for breaks between meetings to prevent burnout. Try not to automatically book hour-long meetings without giving some thought to how much time you actually need. A 45-minute meeting can allow team members a fifteen-minute break, at least, before their next call.
Try to be mindful of good and bad times for scheduling calls, especially when dealing with colleagues in different time zones, or parents who might need to do the school run. Speak to your team to find out when works for them. Also, be aware of cultural differences when it comes to communication preferences and styles.
Consider any language barriers or accents when participating in online meetings, speaking at a speed that others can understand, and not talking over each other. Encourage everyone to participate actively in the session.
Back-to-back online meetings can be draining and exacerbate sedentariness, leading to worse overall health and poor mood. Think about whether you can mix up your meetings – can you stand up for some calls? Or walk and talk, if you don’t need to be on camera?
The message is clear: don’t throw out your webcam just yet. Instead, take a step back, assess your communication methods, and find the right mix that keeps your team engaged and energised.
Can we help you find the tech tools to keep your people productive and engaged? Get in touch with the Woodstock IT team today.