Video conferencing apps like Zoom have become a daily life staple, for work, play, and personal connection. As we adapt to a socially distanced lifestyle and routine, this medium of communication is getting harder for many, not easier. “Zoom fatigue” is real. Video-based communication requires more intense focus and attention than face-to-face communication. We have to filter out pauses, glitches, background noise and other distractions while processing what others are saying. Your brain does all this receptive processing first, and then you need to determine what to do with that information or how to respond. If you are feeling drained and slogging through your days at the computer, you are definitely not alone. More time to adjust won’t make you less exhausted.
While it’s frustrating to feel that we aren’t performing at our best, we need to reconcile with the fact that we are living in hella extraordinary circumstances. We can’t expect ourselves to do the same amount of work that we did before the pandemic. Creating spaces for communication that are supportive, rather than draining, takes a lot of intention and careful planning.
If you are the person responsible for creating that supportive meeting space, there are a few things you can do to ease the experience for your attendees while ensuring the most important information is received. If you have to participate in a lot of video calls, you can use many of these tips to care for yourself and make sure your communication needs are met.
Try making these adjustments to support video call communication before, during and after meeting time:
- Be conscious of others in the “room” and allow for more time than is needed to brainstorm, ask questions, answer questions and transition between tasks or subjects. Try counting to three every time you take a natural pause to let your words sink in, especially when you want others to interject. Pushing through and trying to get things done quickly will make it more exhausting for yourself and everyone else. Adding in a little extra time for our computers and our brains to keep up with the conversation makes for a much better experience all around.
- Avoid back-to-back Zoom meetings, especially if they require you to embody different roles. (If you like to stack your meetings for efficiency, be mindful of how well you'll be able to perform by the last one.) Give yourself some time in between to breathe, stretch and get in the right mental space for the next meeting. You might set a limit on the number of video calls or amount of time you spend in meetings during a given day. If you are a team leader, be especially mindful of the toll that back-to-back video calls can take on members of your team. Ask about individual comfort levels and consider how to schedule breaks to allow for recharge time.
- Whenever possible, provide everyone with an agenda containing any questions they might have to answer. Answering on the spot is harder when you’re focused on a video call, so preview what the communication “ask” is going to be: how much detail is expected, and how long responses need to be? This will give participants extra time to prepare and save everyone some time during the call.
- Similarly, allow for follow-up time afterward in whatever format works best for your team. You may designate 5-10 minutes at the end of the call for unstructured conversation to socialize and tie up any loose ends or ask someone to take notes and send them out in a recap email. Think about the tools you have at your disposal, from the in-app chat functions and breakout rooms to individual emails and shared files. If applicable, remind your team whom they can reach out to as they process the information and come up with new questions and ideas.
One of the best things you can do to facilitate more effective, less exhausting communication during this time is to set aside some time to interact with each team member individually and see how they are doing, from workload and their wellbeing. We don’t have as much time to socialize and ease into our workday, and those few minutes of small talk when we say hello in the morning often give us important clues about how to interact with coworkers. If someone is dealing with a personal issue that may affect their work, they may not feel comfortable sharing that in a group meeting or reaching out with an email.
Even with an arsenal of strategies, you may find that this new form of communication is so physically draining that you are losing motivation. Maybe communication has always been a bit more difficult for you and the extra concentration is pushing you toward the edge. If small listicle adjustments just aren’t cutting it for you, we can talk. Please reach out to us for a free 30-minute consultation to get matched with a therapist that specializes in the communication problems that are holding you back. If you’re still not sure exactly what you need help with, check out our resources on cognitive coaching and language therapy to see if these options might be right for you.