“Digital fatigue” is that feeling we get on a day of never-ending online meetings. When we experience digital fatigue, we can feel drained socially, emotionally, physically, and motivationally. There are many reasons we experience the mental and physical stresses from too many video meetings.
Way too close
A video meeting can feel like one long staring contest. You can stare at your meeting partner(s) or yourself – either way you’re locked in on a computer screen that’s likely only a foot or two away. You want to display attentiveness and focus, but you get stuck in one position afraid to fidget, look away, or have too much distance between you and your screen. This close distance isn’t something we’d likely experience at an in-person meeting, so anxiety and self-consciousness can set in quickly.
Aware to the extreme
Seeing ourselves up-close can have us subconsciously analyzing and micro-correcting our body language at every turn. Being hyper-aware of how you appear on screen and wanting to signal your attentiveness can leave you feeling stiff and restricted, unable to make the small movements we often do in person. Overanalyzing the body language of others, and over communicating to make up for their restricted view can overload our senses. All of this combines to leave us feeling tired, anti-social, and generally checked out.
What to do
Luckily, we can combat digital fatigue. Try all or a few of these tips:
· Put some distance between you and your screen. Whether you make the meeting window smaller, set your computer arms-length away, or utilize an external keyboard, getting some space can help alleviate the feeling of being on high alert.
· Utilize the beloved 20/20/20 rule. This means every 20 minutes that you’ve been looking at your screen, you should take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away. This can help your eyes adjust and relax and could be a good time to do a minute of stretching as a break.
· Hide your view of yourself. Many video platforms have a “hide self-view” option that prevent you from seeing yourself mirrored on your screen. Remember you wouldn’t have to look at yourself in person and give yourself permission to focus on the meeting at hand instead.
· Turn the camera off completely. Schedule days where you don’t do online-meetings. Have a phone call or use an automatic chat function for a necessary conversation. Having a team- or group-wide practice of turning of the camera occasionally can allow the more fatigued to engage more comfortably. You can even hold or encourage a stretch or water break during or around meetings to help reduce stress and burnout.
· Schedule time to have a break before and after digital meetings. This practice will help you reset, refresh, and refocus.
Digital fatigue can take a significant toll on mental health, which impacts anyone’s ability to be motivated, productive, and contribute to the degree they want to. Mental health is a reality every workplace and employee will have to address at some point. Confronting digital fatigue is a great place to start.