KFE - Virtual Brady Bunch

May 01, 2020

Learning to navigate and make the best use of video calls, both personal and business, has been a pressing requirement since working from home.  

Even my hockey team is doing Zoom calls.  The need for online social connections during this time has increased dramatically!

To make for better video calls, there is plenty of guidance on dress code, background, sight lines, connection quality, etc.  Many of these tips and tricks mirror those used in photography.

Outside of these "best practice" attributes for video calls, I've noticed an interesting phenomena that has affected me from these virtual interactions (Zoom, Teams, etc):  They are exhausting!

I am clearly not alone as the term "Zoom Fatigue and Zoom Gloom" are now used to describe the condition.  Virtual interactions are definitely hard on the brain.

What causes this and what can we do differently?

When we interact in person, the non-verbal aspect of our communication is a large part of how we "read" the situation.  As this is our normal state, in-person meetings don't require a lot of work to paint the picture of our connection with the other person.

With a video call, it is hard to obtain non-verbal cues from a box displaying only the head and shoulders so we focus heavily on the words. Even close up facial expressions are hard to assess. There is a direct correlation between your reliance on non-verbal cues and how tiring these calls can be.

When you increase the number of people on a call with gallery views, it just magnifies the problem.  Your brain has to interpret many people simultaneously. Focusing on so many people "partially" is very difficult.  

Think about an in person group meeting.  When one person is speaking, you can still obtain information from the others in the meeting quite easily.  As its natural to search for non verbal cues, the group calls tire you and (until now) you couldn't understand why!

Following are some suggestions to reduce Zoom Gloom:

1)  Use the phone as the primary and preferred choice.  As you only rely on audio, your brain isn't subconsciously trying to read cues.  The other advantage of the phone is you can walk around which promotes creativity.

2)  When you get on a call for Teams or Zoom, ask up front if you can go "audio only".  You can start the call in video mode and ask politely to switch to audio.

3)  Keep track of the amount of video calls you engage in knowing that they are tiring.  When are you at your best for reading non verbal cues? Participate in only a few group calls per week.  Take breaks between video calls.

4) If organizing, try to limit the amount of invitees.  Generally speaking remote meetings plummet in quality as size increases.  Furthermore your "Zoom Gloom" rises exponentially with lots of galleries on your screen.  If someone is presenting its best to have everyone on audio except the speaker.

Being cognizant that video calls require more focus and mental energy than what they seem means you are a step ahead.  Your subconscious is working hard!  Eye contact is awkward and difficult through this medium.  

Now that you understand the "why" of this fatigue, hopefully some of these ideas will allow you to embrace virtual face to face connections in a different manner.

Have a great weekend, Karl

+Quote: "In a way we're closer, but we're still communicating through this weird filter, so it gets tiring to get to the real stuff through this filter. " Suzanne Degges-White




Karl Choltus

Deep thinking Canadian sharing thoughts created in the shower.