Don’t automatically assume that video will be better than a phone call – the overloading of the brain as it strives to make sense of information which it expects to be there, but can’t find, has a mental cost which needs to be taken into account.
In the context of the need for psychological safety, that was highlighted as being so critical in the last article, these barriers to effective collaboration create a significant additional hurdle. It is much harder, for example, to monitor non-verbal feedback from other attendees in order to determine how a message is being received, making it difficult to know when it would be beneficial to ask for feedback or adjust course.
This article looks at some of the ways that video conferences can create mental stress through their unique impact on our unconscious mind, leading to poor concentration during, and unusual levels of tiredness after, the meetings. One interesting point highlighted by the article, which serves to illustrate that this environment is different in a fairly fundamental way, is that people who have a restricted ability to handle interpersonal situations, such as autistics, may actually benefit from the switch from physical to video conferencing!
By becoming aware of these factors, we can prepare ourselves differently, thus making such meetings more effective.
Read the Article: ‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain. Here’s why that happens.
The advantages of video conferencing in the current environment are obvious; however, it is important to be aware of the additional risk of exhaustion that it can create. The cause of this tiredness is the unique mental challenges involved in online collaboration, especially as we attempt to pick up social nuances and maintaining attention. These practical steps can help:
- Don’t automatically assume that video will be better than a phone call – the overloading of the brain as it strives to make sense of information which it expects to be there, but can’t find, has a mental cost which needs to be taken into account.
- Ensure that everyone in the meeting is fully engaged, encouraging them to show up with energy and to give good visual feedback. This makes the presenter’s task much easier and eases the load on the unconscious mind of everyone in the meeting. For even greater benefit, it helps enormously if cameras are arranged so that participants fill their screens with their face and upper body, thus providing stronger non-verbal signals. This might sound like common sense, but it is not common practice!
- Because the mind is working harder, it is likely that attention spans will be significantly shorter on video calls than face-to-face. To offset this, more breaks are necessary. As a rule of thumb, I’d recommend taking shorter breaks at least twice as often as you would normally.