By Ruba Al Far, Pharmacist

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Video chatting for learning, work and social connections has become a new norm for hundreds of millions of people since the COVID-19 outbreak. But how are these video chats impacting our health?

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Zooming, skyping, video chatting

In the middle of a pandemic, with lockdowns and quarantines, Zoom and other video chat apps (Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout Meets) have become our connection saviours. These platforms facilitate communication for not only our business meetings but also virtual contact with family, friends and they even allow us to continue with our fitness classes and other activities virtually. I was excited about Zoom calls for the first few weeks but I eventually found it exhausting and draining.

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Named for one of the most used video-calling platforms, “Zoom fatigue” is a term for the exhaustion caused by too many video calls. It’s a relatively new phenomenon, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Causes of Zoom Fatigue 

1. Our brains have to work harder

 
Our brain works harder to process non-verbal cues such as tone of voice and body language which we rely on during personal communication

 
During a meeting, participants are asked to mute their microphones to reduce distraction and this makes it even harder to gauge their reaction

 
Freezing of the screen, as well as connection problems, can sabotage meetings and cause stress

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2. Self-view

In real-life meetings, we don’t see ourselves. But on video calls, our own face stares back at us alongside those of our colleagues. It’s a strange new experience to see our physical appearance and observe ourselves talking, performing and reacting. 

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3. We are easily distracted

With Zoom meetings, we are tempted to multitask; check our phones or emails, or converse with a spouse, child or pet needing our attention.

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4. Tech fails

Technical errors and disruptions make engagements more difficult: slow Wi-Fi connections, lagging and freezing screens, screen sharing difficulties, audio issues and more may lead to disengagement.

Combatting Zoom Fatigue 

Let’s attempt to cut down on the number of video chats we have. Some strategies you may wish to try:  

 
Hiding ‘self-view’ option to help you feel less self-conscious on a video chat (first do a quick check that your positioning and lighting are okay, then hide self-view)

 
Avoiding multitasking by minimising other tabs on your laptop or tablet, keeping your email and chat programmes closed and your smartphone on silent and outside of/away from arm’s reach so you can focus on the video chat

 
Scheduling “no-meeting blocks” into your calendar 

 
Reserving half a day every day for non-video chat work and activities

 
Designating a “Meeting-Free Day” or establishing one day a week for all meetings 

 
Scheduling in breaks in a video chat-filled day to ensure you’re getting up to stretch, grab water and have a quick, healthy snack 

 
Reducing virtual meeting times (aim for 30-minute meetings but 40 minutes should be the max)

 
Ensuring screen-free time activities such as reading, doing yoga, playing card games, baking healthy treats – whatever helps you destress