Virtual platforms are both a blessing and a curse.
In an effort to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, people all over the world have been asked to hunker down in their homes and practice the rules of social distancing — meaning no after-work drinks, sunny weekend adventures or big birthday celebrations — at least, not with those who aren't quarantining with you anyway.
As such, both business and pleasure have moved to the virtual realm, with nearly every single interaction people are having, happening online — and whether that's down to great user experience or ensuing ubiquity, Zoom seems to be the platform of choice.
However, our reliance on video calls to stay connected to each other while social distancing could be more draining than we realise.
While the cultural moment Zoom is having is proving invaluable in terms of connecting with teams, friends and colleagues, between virtual happy hours, virtual classes, virtual fitness instructions and virtual meditations, experts are saying that video calls can actually put a strain on our brains, because we have to work harder to interpret nonverbal cues, like facial expressions and tone.
As Steve Hickman, executive director of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion puts it, it comes down to an overload of visual cues. "If we are with several people online at the same time, we are simultaneously processing visual cues from all of those people (and perhaps a handful of their pets and children too!) in a way we never have to do around a conference table. It is a stimulus-rich environment, but just like rich desserts, sometimes too rich is just too much" writes Hickman.
Connected + Disconnected
Despite Zoom calls requiring a certain level of hyper-focus to nodding appropriately and smiling awkwardly, many of us will admit to having read and replied to several emails while sitting in a meeting where we're supposed to be conversing or listening intently to a colleague’s detailed presentation.
While you might think that multitasking is a clever use of time — especially in the case of the interactions which could have been replaced by an email or quick phone call (remember those?)— it could be exacerbating the situation.
In the early weeks of lockdown, over-communicating with colleagues lent some sense of normalcy to the 9-to-5, chatting almost as if you were in the same office. Now, however, the nonstop deluge of video calls and check in an effort to replicate connection, has people feeling more and more disconnected.
Pressure To Be 'On'
For those working in a company that's pretty new to this all-remote existence, many are observing presenteeism too. Working from home in the current climate of reduced job security and wage-decreases could lead to employees feeling the need to ‘prove themselves’ to management by 'showing face' on video calls.
The 'always-on' nature of the remote working environment, combined with fears of employer perceptions is weighing on people to be on every call, at every company happy hour, every manager check-in and catch up, reacting constantly on all platforms and making sure they're being seen.
Do you think you're suffering from Zoom Fatigue?