Why I default to phone calls over video calls; combatting Zoom Fatigue

After a year of what feels like endless Zoom calls, Zoom fatigue is feeling very real.

We seem to have forgotten about the good old voice call. At the end of 2020 I stopped to reflect on why I was feeling so drained each and every day, and I quickly realised the common denominator of days I was feeling that little extra drained was the video calls, and here is why:

I don’t like being on camera. I am hyper self-conscious.

I know you can turn off viewing yourself, regardless I am still giving attention to what I look like or what my facial expression is saying rather than listening to the person speaking. I will give you my undivided attention if I only have to focus on your voice and what you’re saying. I really don’t like looking at myself all day everyday. This is the main reason, above all others listed below.

It’s not natural to look at the same spot or try to retain eye contact for prolonged periods of time

It requires a lot more focus and attention to constantly retain eye contact or look into the same spot (typically straight down your camera) for long periods of time. Think about when you used to meet someone for a meeting face-to-face, how often would you remain fixated on their face for the duration of the meeting? It’s very natural to look around, look up whilst you’re thinking, gaze off to the side to ponder the answer to a question — it’s much easier to do when you’re not concerned about what the other person is thinking.

Increased screen time

A 2014 Nielsen report found that adults log on average a total of 11 hours of screen time a day. Some of the ways this can affect your health are vision, sleep, addition & reward seeking and weight. To delve deeper into vision, Staring into a screen for extended periods of time can cause “computer vision syndrome” this can show itself as: strained or dry eyes, blurred vision, or headaches.

Take calls in a more comfortable position

That may be cosied up on the couch so you feel more relaxed or pacing up and down your living room. Being more relaxed encourages a more open and free-flowing conversation. And being able to stand up, stretch your legs, flex your hips, bounce out of that poor posture for a moment or walk around reduces the number of hours being sedentary — which has been shown in numerous studies to have severely damaging effects on our physical health.

The hidden cost to the environment

Assuming an average of one one-hour meeting a day involving two people, 250 days a year then: an audio-only calls would emit 0.08kg of CO2 whereas standard definition video calls would emit 0.6kg of CO2 and using high or ultra high definition video calls would emit between 1.1–2.8kg of CO2. We have 10 years, let’s do every little bit we can to save the planet as it all adds up.

Walk & Talks (and being outdoors!)

Walking meetings are a good for your health. It’s the perfect excuse to get outside, get some Vitamin D and get your steps in when we’re spending more time than ever indoors and sitting down more. Walking meetings increase creativity and focus, not to mention being outdoors is great for your mental wellness and healthier for your eyesight to be in natural light. Let me know if you’d like our meeting to be a walk and talk!

Of course there are times when I think having the camera on is useful. When meeting someone for the first time, when non-verbal cues are vital for the conversation or very formal meetings like speaking to investors.

Often when I suggest a no-video call the other person jumps at the opportunity to have a break from being on camera, and from my conversations about this, people don’t want to have to come up with a good reason to turn it off. I think there should be as good a reason to have the video on as there should be to turn it off.

In summary, I want us to have the most creative and relaxed conversation and feel less fatigued as possible by the end of it.

If you would like our call to be on video, feel free to ask at the beginning of the call.

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