In the matter of months, the business world has shifted from conference rooms to remote offices and traded in-person meetings for online conference calls. While at first the notion of working from home seemed appealing to many, sitting isolated in front of a screen for the duration of the day has impacted the interaction between companies’ employees. The slumped feeling experienced after hours in front of the computer has been coined “Virtual Fatigue”, though the burnout can apply to Skype, FaceTime, and other video-based calls.
While many may assume video conference calls are under stimulating, the fatigue experienced begs to differ. When in person, sitting around a conference table, there is a focus on the speaker. The members of the meeting are able to pick up on body language, see their collogues in their peripheral, and glance outside once in a while. In a virtual environment, employees feel pressure to stare directly into the camera, remain attentive, pick up ques from everyone on screen, all while focusing on the message of the speaker. The brain is working overtime to intake the required information to feel productive in the meeting.
In unprecedented times, it is vital to develop coping mechanisms to combat this virtual meeting fatigue. Employees working partially or exclusively online are encouraged to be mindful of these strategies throughout the day to avoid burnout and improve mental health while working from home.
Schedule offline breaks
In an in-person office setting, natural breaks occur throughout the day. Running to grab a coffee, taking a lunch break with co-workers, or simply walking around the office are integrated parts of the day, stripped from businesses in an online world. In lieu of in person interaction with coworkers, we can counteract this missing piece by scheduling breaks in between meetings. Whether this be eating lunch in the kitchen, making a coffee, or stretching your legs, take this opportunity to shut the laptop and disconnect. Ten minutes is all that is necessary to reset, connect with ourselves, and continue on with the day.
Reduce on screen stimuli
While on camera, an abundantly clear distraction is our own image, most video calls have a “self-view” window open while in meetings. Yes, checking initial set up is important. However, after this, many unintentionally spend the entire meeting hyper aware of their appearance, posture, and attentiveness. This distracts many from the speaker and for lack of a better term, is exhausting. To counteract this issue, there is a feature on many video conference applications to “hide self-view”. This is recommended to reduce distractions and allow a relaxed posture while on camera, benefiting attention span, anxiety, and productivity.
Protect your eyes from blue light
Prior to the switch to an online environment, blue light radiating from computers, phones, and televisions was an arising concern. Now, screen time has increased exponentially. According to Doctor of Optometry, Gary Heitig, “when you’re looking at computer screens and other digital devices that emit significant amounts of blue light, this unfocused visual ‘noise’ reduces contrast and can contribute to digital eye strain”.[i] Eye strain can occur after we have been reading, staring, or interpreting information for too long. With the added obstacle of blue light, eye strain is increased. One solution to this digital eye strain is investing in blue light glasses which block the blue light from our eyes and prevent eye strain. Users of blue light glasses express experiencing less headache, digital fatigue, and eyestrain, improving their stamina while working online.
Start and end the workday outdoors
Without built-in reason to leave our homes, it is easy to allow the days to blend together. Challenge yourself to leave your phone and work indoors and go for a walk once a day. While seemingly a simple task, many do not take the time to get outside due to the hustle of the workday. Allowing ourselves the opportunity to get fresh air and sunlight promotes a positive mindset and reduces the feeling of isolation. Starting and ending each day outdoors (minus technology) creates a sense of mindfulness that will be carried through the workday.