The Curse of the Video Call

Have you noticed that attending multiple videoconferencing calls each day seems to be more exhausting than meetings you used to have in the office? There are many reasons. As Gianpiero Petriglieri, a management expert at Insead Business School, told the BBC, “The video call is our reminder of the people we have lost temporarily. It is the distress that every time you see someone online, such as your colleagues, that reminds you we should be in the workplace together.”

Photo by Anna Shvets on

Another reason is that many meeting participants are multitasking during the calls. (Admit it, you are guilty). Focusing on more than one thing simultaneously requires more mental acuity than sitting in a single meeting. Resist the temptation. Close all of the other tabs on your browser, including your email program.

Online meetings also seem to go on longer. It could be that we are lonely working in our remote offices and because we are craving more human contact, our conversations last longer.. Have an agenda. Allow for some social time but keep your sessions focused on what needs to get done. Then, end the call.

When you are on a video, call you also subject yourself to “gaze awareness,” where you find yourself staring at the other person’s face to show your interest in what they are saying. During an in-office meeting, your eyes are continually moving. One trick you can try is to look at the window or your notes periodically. It will help you stay alert.

We also get stressed when Internet dropouts occur. Screens sometimes freeze up, which requires participants to repeat themselves. This is more stressful than you might think.

Research shows that we are more self-conscious when we are on a video call. You might be sizing up the other person’s home and feel that yours doesn’t measure up. Or, maybe you are just worried that your child will make a guest appearance. Zoom and many other teleconference services allow you to create a virtual background. Use them if your environment is of concern to you.

Reduce your video stress by considering these other steps:

  • Build in breaks between calls.
  • Limit the number and length of each video call. Try 30 minutes instead of an hour
  • Create rules like requiring everyone to mute their microphone until they need to speak. That eliminates one person talking over another. I call that that the “No, you go first” phenomena.

Finally, on behalf of us all, remember to turn off your camera if nature calls.

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