It is a fact, online video calls are exhausting. But why is that?

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So many people are reporting similar with online calls whether it’s zoom or Google Hangouts or anything else, online call are exhausting.

Online conferencing has helped us to adapt and carry on during this stressful period. School has gone digital, workers check in with their colleagues remotely, and dance parties gone virtual.

Online conference software such as Zoom, the brand often used to describe online conferencing technology in general, is essential to all this “normality” during such an abnormal time. Microsoft Teams, Skype, or Google Hangouts and many more are also common choices.

And why do we get tired?

Your phone is freezing. There is an echo to it. Million heads are looking at you. There are the huddles of work, the one-on-one meetings, and then the hangouts with friends and family once you’re done for the day. We are on online calls more than ever since the Covid-19 pandemic struck and many find it draining.

But precisely what is it that tiring us out?

1) Body vs. mind : ‘BBC Worklife’ spoke to Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead, who explores sustainable learning and development in the workplace, and Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University, who studies workplace wellbeing and teamwork effectiveness, to hear their views.” “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally”.


2) Missing body language signs: Up to 85 percent of contact consists of body language, Psychology Today reported, which gives meaning and depth to the exchange of verbal information. A lot of that gets lost or distorted in online video communication, USA Today Therefore, online video conferences need more attention than face-to-face talks, Petriglieri told BBC, as we have to work harder to interpret non-verbal cues we receive, such as facial expressions, voice tone and pitch, and body language. Paying more considerable attention to such consumes a great deal of energy. “Normally, you can’t relax in the talk,” he told BBC.

3) Multi-tasking: It is much too tempting to multi-task while we are on an online call. Nobody multi-tasks well. It’s especially exhausting to be continuously dropping a conversational thread and picking it up again. The momentary work of trying to pick it up again takes a mental toll.

4) Delays: Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri.  One 2014 study by German academics showed that delays on phone or conferencing systems shaped our views of people negatively: even delays of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the responder as less friendly or focused.

5) Bad sound quality— whether with video or without, Psychology Today said. “When it takes an effort to hear people talk, the game is up,” the article noted. ‘When does the sound get better?'” Gianpiero Petriglieri, the Italian management expert, told BBC; “Silence provides a normal rhythm in a real-life conversation. But, when it happens in a video call, you become nervous about the technology,” Such deliberate silences make us anxious subconsciously. The sheer nature of the video calls often produces an impersonal experience of contact. Degges-White described it as establishing a conversational framework such as email where one person is speaking, and everyone is waiting to respond, USA Today posted. “Normally, this is not the way we do social interactions,” she said. “It’s not that easy to give and take.” Side conversations are lost, and more reserved attendees can never get a word in, USA Today reported. Speakers often neglect listeners’ verbal messages and affirmations that are most all silenced.


6) Social factors: Shuffler told BBC, that these video calls also involve us feeling obliged. She asked if we’re going to join the constant cooking, birthday parties, catch-ups, and virtual happy hours because we want to, or because we like we should. Obligations, she said, means more time we are “on” instead of just relaxing and being ourselves. Big group calls can feel particularly performative, the BBC warned Petriglieri. “People enjoy watching TV because you can let your mind wander – but a big video call ‘enjoys watching TV and TV is watching you,'” he said.

7) Mixing different areas in our life into one place: Our only place for all our interactions is one small window. We don’t switch environments, change seen… its hard to cope with stress this way.

8) Poor Physical: poor posture, having to remain relatively still in front of a camera, staring at a screen for long periods of time, etc. All of this can be enough to make the experience challenging.

9) We spend more time sitting and in front of our computers than ever, which in addition to the emotional pressures, takes a physical toll.

10) We are on a call all day- the satiation has prompted many to feel the need to be more available and work-accessible than if they had set hours at a different workplace, a recent Japanese study found, Psychology Today Psychology Today revealed that the blurred lines impact our own personal safety and well-being, leading to general anxiety and potentially “obsessing” job duties. Psychology Today noted that many find their bodies beat down by the endless video calls without commutes, water breaks, and conversations with colleagues.

11) M. Sacasas states that “It is also the case that we are paying attention to ourselves in an odd way. Thanks to my image on the screen, I’m conscious of myself not only from within but also from without. We are always to some degree internally conscious of ourselves, of course, but this is the usual “I” in the “I-Thou” relation. Here we are talking about something like an “I-Me-Thou” relation. It would be akin to having a mirror of ourselves that only we could see present whenever we talked with others in person. This, too, amounts to a persistent expenditure of social and cognitive labor as I inadvertently mind my image as well as the images of the other participants.”

what can we do about it?

Overall, video chatting has allowed human relations to flourish in ways that just a few years ago would have been impossible. These tools will enable us to maintain long-distance relationships, link workrooms remotely, and even now, amid mental fatigue during a pandemic, cultivate a sense of cohesion.

  • Stand, doodle, or sit outside in the sun, Psychology Today suggested.
  • Set boundaries to working hours
  • “Invest in sound technology so that minds, wherever they are, can [focus] on each other’s thoughts, not on the distracting thinking” Gianpiero Petriglieri
  • Take some time during meetings before you get to work, to check in with others. “It’s a way to reconnect with the world, retain trust, and tiredness and worry.”
  • Limit video calls to really needed ones.
  • Don’t indulge in multitasking. Treat it as a real conversation, and if need be, avert your attention. Get up and get water or look away from your phone, The Convivial Society has suggested.
  • Wright suggested breaks in between calls to encourage our brains to turn gears and build a separate physical space where you take video calls from work and personal video calls, USA Today said.
  • Spend some time with online fun activities during worktime.

As a manger, how would you help your employee overcoming online calls fatigue?



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Disclaimer: The views shared here are my own. Assistance from a language model was employed for organizing and summarizing my thought. Some of the accompanying images were created using AI technology.

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