Why you may be finding video calls so tiring

Jo Thomas 2016

Jo McNie
Consultancy Services Deputy Manager, Assurity Consulting
29th April 2020

Following a day filled with one-to-one meetings, webinars, and team catch-ups… cue those evening video calls with friends and family. We’re now on video calls more than ever before – and lots of people are finding it exhausting.

So, what makes video calls so tiring?

By their very nature, video calls create a virtual work environment that simulates the real thing. We therefore need to work harder to process non-verbal signals, such as the tone and pitch of the voice, body language, and even facial expressions; paying more attention to these aspects of communication consumes a lot of our energy. Further to that, if we physically appear on camera ourselves, we may be more aware of being observed by others on the call. It can be challenging not to look at your own face (if you can see yourself) as we can become increasingly conscious of how we behave on camera.

In addition to this, those dreaded awkward delays caused by technical glitches can affect the flow of conversation, which can sometimes destabilise important discussions. A 2014 study found that delays on video conferencing systems shaped our views of people negatively; even delays of just 1.2 seconds made people perceive the responder as less friendly or focused.

Further to this, our private lives – friends, family, loved ones – that used to be separate from work, are now suddenly happening in the same space. It’s also possible to feel slightly estranged during larger group chats because your ability to communicate and contribute as an individual is diminished. Despite us all trying to make the best of a bad situation by organising social gatherings on video calls, they may not feel entirely ‘leisurely’. This is because they’re essentially still meetings and revolve around the devices/platforms we now associate with work.

On top of that, life during a global pandemic can be very worrying, and some of us may be putting higher expectations on ourselves as a result. A lack of time and the ability to unwind and fully ‘switch off’ after we’ve satisfied work and family commitments can inevitably contribute to our tiredness.

Top tips on reducing video call fatigue:

  • Limit video calls to those that are necessary
  • Make it optional to turn on cameras (cameras do not always have to be on throughout each meeting)
  • Set your screen to the side (rather than straight ahead) to help you to concentrate
  • Accept that technical glitches and delays may occur during a call
  • Schedule regular breaks between calls to re-focus
  • Try using a different device/platform to video call friends, family and loved ones – this may help to distinguish your private time from work