One year into the pandemic, it is safe to assume that most of us have used online meeting platforms in some way or the other. It is useful beyond words. It has helped us stay employed, ensured continued learning, and most importantly helped us keep our sanity by providing us an option to interact with our loved ones when we could not physically meet them. For some people, this arrangement proved to be beneficial, especially the ones who had to commute long distances for work. Despite some clear advantages most of us will agree that we experience exhaustion in some form or the other caused by online meetings.
Why are these online meetings so challenging?
Psychologists say that we combine verbal speech with nonverbal cues to process a conversation into our consciousness. Nonverbal cues like body language, voice tone, proximity to self and hand gestures complements speech, giving a well-rounded understanding of the context. Not everyone likes to video chat, so nonverbal cues are automatically lost for them. Unfortunately, for those who do, the experience is not always seamless. Frozen screen, lag in audio, interrupted connection …we have faced all these nuances of technology (or lack of it). Awkward silences followed by all speaking together, time lag in answering one’s questions, etc. are typically not characteristic of real-life conversations. All this makes virtual interactions exhaustive.
Not only work, but our leisure is also now confined to a square box on the screen. Be it hanging out with friends, taking to parents, taking yoga class, even consulting your doctor it is all virtual!!! The sheer monotony of it all makes us feel terribly bored, and that IS EXHAUSTING!!
When you meet a person in real life, you also have a shared environment. That is something that binds you to the ‘present’ collectively. But online conferences mean that only the virtual environment is shared, not the physical one. Those who have experienced a child throwing tantrums in the other room, a dog barking incessantly, a doorbell that just rang and needs immediate attention can relate. This dissonance is stressful and an energy drainer.
When we are online there is no real eye contact. It is either you are looking at the camera or on the screen where the person you are speaking to is looking somewhere else. Some teams have arranged for happy hours where employees can hang around with each other and share a drink or two. To quote one of my friends T, who works for a leading tech company in the Netherlands,” It all seemed ok in the beginning but later I just realized I am just sitting with a bottle in front of the computer. After work we went out to grab a beer with colleagues sometime at the local bar. This virtual happy hour cannot replace that in any way. “I think many of us can relate to this. The things we are doing to let off steam are not entirely working and that builds up pressure.
So, what can we do??
- Studies show that we think better when we move. So, at times you can consider going mobile during a meeting. Also, you can alternate technologies. It does not have to involve looking at a screen all day. Switching some meetings to phone calls, choosing a different workstation at home, catching up with friends while cooking, placing your camera at a distance or in a different angle are some strategies you can use to deal with the exhaustion that comes from extensively using remote platforms.
- Laura Lozza, neuropsychology expert, and executive leadership mentor says to put your well-being at the highest priority. If virtual meetings are not working maybe, it is wise to have a real-life meeting with your friends and colleagues occasionally. You can book a place for few hours and have an in-person meeting. Of course, you can check if the location offers COVID safe environment or not. Office spaces in Eindhoven city like the ones in Micro Lab and Strip S are good, but again, they usually have long waitlists, and are difficult to schedule. Moreover, most of these offer closed spaces where the air circulation system or worse even lack of it, is not a hygienic choice keeping in mind the situation with the virus. An obvious choice would be something like this, in nature, where you do not have to worry about maintaining distance and availability of modern utilities.
- We all have attended meetings which could have been an email. Right? With the increasing amount design tools, we have at our disposal, we use that to write emails with some extra notes and diagrams.
- Washing hands, wearing masks, taking multivitamins we are doing it all to take care of ourselves but are we taking enough care of our mental health? The first step is to realize and recognize your feelings of exhaustion and then take some steps to address that. If you want some tips on how to put your mental well-being at top check out this free course.
Videoconferencing and online interactions are here to stay, and we stood testimony to how it is instrumental in keeping things going. The onus is on us to optimize its usage and maintain the right balance. A hybrid model of real-life interactions and virtual ones might become the norm in days to come.