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Morning Walk #56
Why video meetings are such an energy drain and how to change it
Hi. I’m Stepa Mitaki. I’m a product person and an entrepreneur. I’ve been working in 🏙 govtech for eight years and currently work at a UK-based 🏦 fintech startup Silverbird while building a new company in 👩🏼⚕️ healthtech on the side.
Morning Walk is a personal weekly newsletter where I share some musings on tech, digital healthcare, working on startups, productivity, some nerdy stuff and an occasional share of reflections on the Ukraine war and how it feels being Russian at this moment in history.
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🎥 Why video meetings are such an energy drain and how to change it
Ever since the pandemic hit in March 2020 and I began spending the majority of my working days in video calls, I couldn’t stop wondering why on earth I feel so awful after them. After almost every video call, I always need some time to recover. And as far as I remember my pre-pandemic life, the real offline meetings haven’t made such an energy drain on me. Or am I being paranoid, and they always did? It does feel like in-person office visits were ages ago.
Last week I stumbled upon this phenomenal video by Headspace in which a cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Sahar Yousef explains the science behind video calls and why they are such an enormous energy drain all the time. What I like the most about this video is that besides scientific explanation, it includes practical tips on fighting Zoom fatigue. These tips helped me survive through plenty of video calls last week and made them feel much more effortless. I want to share these tips with you.
So, there a five major reasons why video meetings are so taxing on our energy levels:
Unnatural eye contact
Our brains are wired to find direct eye contact. And in video calls, they simply can’t. Thus, our brain is panicking (the person is right there, I can see him! Why is there no eye contact!?) and burning more energy.
What to do: turn off rows of faces in a meeting and keep only one face in front of you, focusing only on a speaker.
Constantly staring at your own image
Turns out, we are biologically inclined to stare at ourselves if we can see our own image. Thus, we constantly do this during a video calls and burn more energy.
What to do: turn off your view and just forget about it.
Lack of mobility
In a video call, we are packed into a small square framing ourselves for hours a day. Our movements are usually way more limited than in an offline meeting.
What to do: 1) Move back away from the camera to allow yourself more space, to shift from left to right, like in a regular meeting; 2) take some meetings on the go, walking.
Interpreting nonverbal cues
Our brain can’t find eye contact, so it starts paying more attention to nonverbal cues. And it spends more energy picking up any facial gestures or small adjustment others make.
What to do: have more audio-only calls.
Dip in beta waves at 30-40 minutes
At about a 30-40 minute mark in the video meeting, there is a huge dip in beta waves that continues to decline as time goes on. Beta waves are a type of activity in our brains that accompany those times when we are alert, focused, and mentally active. Simply speaking, our brain is done focusing.
What to do: embrace the 30-minute default for video calls and limit 60-minutes calls as much as possible.
Okay, again, here is your todo list for the upcoming week:
Turn off rows of faces keeping only video of a speaker.
Turn off your view (not turning off your video but turning off your ability to see yourself).
Move back away from the camera to allow yourself more space.
Take some meetings on the go, walking. Schedule in advance which meetings next week you can take on the go.
If possible, have more audio-only calls.
Embrace 30-minute default for video calls; limit 60-minutes calls to absolute necessity.
If you’re a founder, it might be a good idea to introduce this as part of your internal policies around meetings.
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That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Until next week 👋🏻
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