Coronavirus lockdown: Video call fatigue is real

Here’s how to deal with the surprising side effect of working from home during the pandemic
(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)
Published on May 13, 2020 06:25 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Mumbai | BySneha Mahale

For those confined to their homes due to the never-ending lockdown, video calls have emerged as a crucial way to hold work meetings remotely, catch up with friends and family, or even have a party. But for all its benefits, this reliance has given rise to a new problem: video call fatigue. Irrespective of the platform, users are finding out that a part of so many video conferences is getting exhausting. Since the lockdown began, there has been a sudden spike in the mention of “video call fatigue” on social media and more people are looking up the term on Google.

“These video calls go on and on, and get draining after some time. I feel more tired now than when I was working 10 hours in the office,” says Jhanvi Karnik, a marketing manager. One reason for this exhaustion is that many non-verbal cues that we typically rely on during in-person conversations are missing. “Sustained eye contact, subtle shifts such as a sharp intake of breath or leaning forward that indicate someone is about to speak and other cues are lost in video calls that include multiple people,” says behavioural expert Vandana Shah. This can lead to a disjointed conversation with long periods of silence during which no one talks, followed by people talking all at once, over each other. This exhausts the brain, leading to satiation.

Overconsumption also means that after a stressful day, you find yourself avoiding opportunities to catch up with family and friends on the same platform. There are other implications to consider. “The blue rays emitted are harmful to the eyes and sleep centre of the brain. They can cause insomnia by affecting the circadian rhythm. Insomnia can cause irritability, fatigue and loss of concentration. At times, video chat may result in a late lunch or comfort eating. This may result in acidity, weight gain and fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Eye strain, dryness of eyes and headaches can happen, and prolonged sitting may result in back pain,” says Dr Santosh Bangar, consultant psychiatrist at Global Hospital.

There are ways to manage this. Avoid back-to-back meetings and take short breaks between them, when possible, to relax the mind. Also, keep meetings short and give them a miss, if you are not needed. Lastly, be aware of the room lighting to avoid straining the eyes and reduce on-screen time through the rest of the day.

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