In the modern world, more people than ever can work from home. As part of this process, more and more companies are utilizing video calls to communicate with colleagues and hold meetings. This has led to a phenomenon called video call fatigue.

The United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported in May 2020, that approaching 50% of adults in employment were working from home. Others are reporting similar statistics worldwide.

This change is a direct result of the social distancing measures that governments have introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, some people argue that it paves the way for even more home working in the future. Companies that may not have facilitated working from home before have had to make it work and may keep it going forward.

But with home working comes video calls, and the potential for video call fatigue.

Keep reading to learn more.

A woman with video call fatigue chats with colleagues.Share on Pinterest
Gaze awareness, limited attention, and technical issues can contribute to video call fatigue.

With more and more people utilizing video calls as their main method of keeping in touch, a phenomenon known as video call fatigue has become more widespread.

In some instances, people are finding that they are feeling more exhausted when working from home than they would when working in the office. This exhaustion is even the case after factoring in a long commute.

There are several ways that video calls can affect our mental health, and the fatigue they cause is one that many people may struggle with.

Learn more about how video calls affect mental health here.

Several psychological occurrences that are not present in a person’s typical day-to-day work life affect video call faigue.

Thanks to video calls and the psychology behind them, these psychological occurrences cause what people have now nicknamed ‘Zoom fatigue.’ Zoom fatigue takes its name from the popular video calling applications.

Gaze awareness

In person, when two or more people are having a conversation, eye contact is made.

On a video call, people also want to look into the eyes of the person they are speaking with. However, the camera is not located in the same place as the person they are talking to.

This computer hardware fact means that people will always look like they are looking elsewhere, despite their best attempts at making eye contact.

This lack of eye contact can lead to people feeling like they are not being listened to, causing frustration with their peers.

Back in 2,000, researchers called this phenomenon gaze awareness.

Limited attention

In a meeting in the office, a person may doodle; they may look out of the window or look around the room. These things may be slightly rude normally but might appear even ruder in a video call scenario.

In reality, it can also be easier to lose focus on a video call than it is to lose focus in a real-life meeting.

A person may continue to send emails while on a video call. They may try to complete other work tasks at the same time, which could cause them to not pay attention to the video call.

To be able to give the video call a person’s full attention, they must work harder, which may cause greater fatigue.

Technical issues

There are also many technical problems that can occur through the use of video calls that would not be present in real life meetings.

Internet speed can be interrupted or slow, causing lag. This means that a person may end up frozen on the screen or unable to be heard by others.

This transmission delay can cause frustration and make the conversation impossible to continue. When a person has to repeat themselves, it can be tiring.

Performance pressure

In a video call, more so than a face-to-face conversation, people are very aware that others are watching them.

This self-awareness can lead to people feeling as if they have to portray themselves in a certain way that is not the case in meetings in the office.

Keeping up a high level of performance on screen can be tiring and lead to video call fatigue.

Furthermore, usually on a video call, a person can see themselves in a little box in the corner of their screen. This may make them self-conscious and take their attention away from the meeting.

What else is going on in a person’s home while they are on a video call may also make them self-conscious.

An example of this might be children playing or being noisy in the background.

Screen time

Even when video calls are for connecting with friends and family, spending even more time in front of a screen can feel like the last thing someone wants to do.

While in the office, a person may get up and take time away from the screen. However, at home they may feel like they are not as productive so take fewer breaks from their computer screen.

Adding extra screen time for leisure purposes into the mix can contribute to tiredness and irritability.

Video call fatigue can make otherwise content people anxious and may increase anxiety levels in those already experiencing such feelings.

Video call fatigue can cause people to feel overwhelmed when they would not usually, leading to increased tiredness and even exhaustion.

Learn more about fatigue and exhaustion here.

There are several ways that people can try to limit video call fatigue, as follows:

  • Limit video calls to only those that are necessary: It can be tempting to turn everything into a video call to try to mimic working in the office, but often this can cause more harm than good. If a meeting can take place via a phone call or even email, people may find these options less tiring. Video calls may not always be the most efficient option, and people should keep this in mind when scheduling meetings or wanting to share information.
  • Build in breaks: People need to make sure that they are scheduling in regular short breaks away from the computer, and between video calls when they are working from home. Multiple video calls in a row without any sort of relief between can cause tiredness and make someone feel plain fed up.
  • Have smaller conference calls: Having fewer people in each call can mean that each person has more time to speak. When there are too many people all trying to speak at once, it can end up with nobody being able to get their points across. This can cause frustration and irritability. It also means that the meeting can feel like a waste of time.
  • Establish rules: Setting guidelines, such as everyone having to mute their microphones when they are not speaking, can help keep things running smoothly.

Video calls are a useful way of keeping in touch with friends, family, and colleagues without having to physically be in the same location.

Too many video calls can lead to someone experiencing video call fatigue, however.

It is essential for people to ensure they are not letting video calls have a negative impact on their mental health.

It is important to remember that a video call is not the same as an in-person meeting and for everyone to work together to navigate these new sets of social norms.