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‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain. Here's why that happens.

Zoom fatigue

Zoom fatigue

2020 has thrust people into a regular virtual space.

This unofficial social experiment confirms that virtual interactions can take its toll on the brain, commonly known as Zoom fatigue. This exhaustion also applies to Google Hangout, Skype, FaceTime, or any other video-calling interface.

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‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain. Here's why that happens.

‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain. Here's why that happens.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/coronavirus-zoom-fatigue-is-taxing-the-brain-here-is-why-that-happens/

nationalgeographic.com

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Key Ideas

Zoom fatigue

2020 has thrust people into a regular virtual space.

This unofficial social experiment confirms that virtual interactions can take its toll on the brain, commonly known as Zoom fatigue. This exhaustion also applies to Google Hangout, Skype, FaceTime, or any other video-calling interface.

Zoom gloom

  • A typical video call demands more intense focus on the words, as most other body language cues are missing. If somebody is really dependent on those non-verbal cues, it can be very draining not to have them.
  • Multi-person screens magnify this exhausting problem, as it challenges the brain’s central vision, forcing it to decode too many people at once.
  • If you view a single speaker at a time, you can’t recognize how non-active participants are behaving - something you otherwise would pick up with a peripheral vision.

  • For some people, the prolonged split in attention can overwhelm the brain by unfamiliar excess stimuli while being hyper-focused on searching for non-verbal cues that it can’t find.

A traditional phone call may be less taxing on the brain because it delivers on a promise to convey only a voice.

Zoom boon

For those who have neurological difficulty with in-person communication, such as those with autism, the shift to video calls has been positive.

Video calls lead to fewer people talking and less filler conversation, which relieves tension and anxiety felt by autistic individuals.

Overcoming Zoom fatigue

Once people learn to navigate the mental overload video chatting can cause, Zoom fatigue can be reduced.

  • If you're feeling over-stimulated, turn off your camera. Save your energy for when you want to perceive the few non-verbal cues available.
  • If the meeting can be done by phone, try walking at the same time.

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Why Zoom Calls Drain Us
Why Zoom Calls Drain Us
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Everything From A Tiny Screen

Video Calling is being used for studying, dating, talking to your parents and for work purposes, leading to a new kind of exhaustion of doing everything from your laptop or smartphone screen. Add to this our being confined in a tiny space (like a room) most of the time.

Relaxing Activity Vs Performance

If video calling and catching up with friends was a relaxing activity, where you can just be yourself, you would not feel fatigued. 

What we have here is an added pressure to perform virtually among so many other participants, each vying for attention and validation.

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Introducing People
Introducing People

People no longer have the option to introduce themselves to new people at their convenience (like in an office setting, for example). With the remote setting, the second someone joins an online mee...

The Waiting Room

It is advisable to enable the waiting room option for new joiners so that they are made to enter one at a time and provided with a proper introduction.

It also takes care of the risk of your meeting getting crashed by someone suddenly.

The Art Of The Pause
  • Video chats with multiple participants have a lot of cross-talk and people talking at the same time. This problem is compounded by dodgy internet speeds.

  • It is possible to listen to only one person at a time, so one has to learn the art of the pause. Stopping and staying silent will allow others to calm down.

  • Zoom also has a raise hand feature, which helps facilitate the meeting in an orderly fashion.

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Disruption Of Daily Habits

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Developed Habits

They unload our minds from our constant decision making, and provide us with ways to relax.

We have a finite amount of energy for solving the daily problems, as our attention is a resource that can be exhausted, making decisions harder as the day goes by.

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  • Though employees are happy to see the demise of daily commutes and parking hassles, they are finding out that there is no work-life balance at home.
  • Most workers live in apartments that aren’t suitable for 8 to 10 hours of work every day, as it was never designed to be a full-fledged office.
  • Many employees would want to get back to offices as soon as possible due to social and mental issues, like the feeling of loneliness at home.
Digital Monitoring

Monitoring software that checks time spent on different applications, chat response time, and keystroke recording is now in great demand.

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Just scheduling a video call once a week and having some pleasant small talk can be enough to build relationships that last. 

22% of Americans work from home

.... while nearly 50% are involved with remote or virtual team work.

This continuing shift calls for a new range of behaviors and skills.

Communication challenges for remote teams
  • Body language. Even when we share the same space, the tone of a text or of an email is left wide open to interpretation and can generate anxiety.
  • The delay between our messages can often postpone or hide emotional reactions to our comments. Lacking an immediate response, we can become distracted, second-guess ourselves, or even grow frustrated with our teams.
3 types of distance in remote teams
  • Physical (place and time)
  • Operational (team size, bandwidth and skill levels)
  • Affinity (values, trust, and interdependency).

The best way for managers to drive team performance is by focusing on reducing affinity distance.

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But even after we have the technology required for remote working for about fifteen odd years, we have been slow to adopt mainstream remote working. The mass-adoption needed a catalyst, and that was provided in 2020 in the form of a deadly disease.

Remote Work During The Pandemic
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  • The unpredictable nature of the pandemic and an expectation of the second wave of infections can hamper any chance to return to offices.

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High tolerance to frustration

People with high frustration tolerances are the ones that generally succeed at remote work. And you can take steps to raise your frustration tolerance and become more conscientious by working on your impulsivity.

A non-conscientious person will find another activity (a distraction most likely) the moment something challenging or uncomfortable comes up. They have to be more conscious to stay in the moment: count to five or take five deep breaths, for example.

A lack of boundaries

When work and personal activities are occurring in the same space, there are no cues for you to behave the way you do at work while you are outside your physical office.

Those who work well from home create boundaries in a work-life world without them. Then, once these parameters are established, people who commit fewer ‘boundary violations’ are better off.

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Remote-first Mindset

Accept that you have to put in place remote work systems, even if more than half of your employees ultimately revert to office-based work.

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Build a socially-connected culture

Intentionally design for the same interactions that would otherwise happen if people were in the office.

  • Culture is what naturally happens when a group of people gets together for any period.
  • A great culture happens with intentional design and influence. It's the reason you should make your company's mission, vision, values, operating principles, standards, and agreements visible. 
  • Culture is experienced through emotions, including how your employees feel about the company, you, other leaders, and peers. That feeling is developed through human interaction at the water cooler, kitchen, or hallway conversations.
Your leadership presence

Your people need to feel your presence as a leader as they will have fewer opportunities to see you face to face when they work remotely.

  • Regularly show up in a variety of forms that can include weekly video meetings, periodic company-wide emails, or presence in public channels.
  • Err on the side of more communication rather than less.

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