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Working from Home: Week 5

Working from Home: Week 5

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It looks like it’s going to be a lovely weekend again – since we went in to lockdown the weather has been exceptional (especially for the West of Scotland, where I’m writing from) and after the 5th week of Working From Home (WFH) I’m looking forward to the first BBQ of the year and a couple of beers.

I’ve been involved in quite a few webinars and video-calls/recordings this week and was interested to see a few comments on social media around “Zoom Fatigue” (other video conferencing apps are available!). I’d been on an international video call which lasted over an hour and found it quite tiring so the comments made about Zoom Fatigue hit home.

If you are involved in these types of remote meetings the following might be of use in helping you understand why they are so draining:

  • Technology: important business meetings will always bring some stress and anxiety. With WFH we can add in using (often unfamiliar) technology and connectivity issues. The worry that your wi-fi signal will disappear half-way through your pitch might be a 1st World problem but it does add new stressors to your working day.
  • Face to Face: the promotors of video conferencing would have us believe that its just as good as a face to face meeting. However, it differs in a few important ways. Firstly, the video call requires significant focus – we can see each other’s faces but a lot of the body language and other non-verbal communication is lost; generally we only see head and shoulders so it’s hard to detect all the various signals that are usually processed in a face to face meeting. In addition, even with the best systems there is a micro-second delay between video and audio which can cause a slight, unconscious disconnect. These factors add to the need to focus more intently in order not to miss any messages in the meeting and will therefore increase stress and fatigue.
  • Being on display: during a video call its almost impossible to avoid the feeling that you are “on show”. You may try to relax but even that thought can bring pressure as you need to put effort in to relaxing! This feeling can be even worse if you know the video call is being recorded so your image and awkwardness is stored for posterity and further discussion.
  • Add to this the issues of video calls while WFH – kids making appearances in the background or as in the case of Jonathan Ashworth MP the kids invading the scene totally, images of homelife and family on display for colleagues and clients to see and the stress just continues to ramp up.
  • Seeing yourself as others see us: this is perhaps the most significant difference between face to face and video meetings. When sat around a table talking, we aren’t usually aware of what we look like. On a video call, you can often see exactly what others are seeing of us; “do I look bored?”, “did I just nod approval?” etc. This adds to the stain and pressure – not only do we need to control our words but we are also given visual feedback on how our face might be betraying true feeling. Some apps will allow this function to be switched off but, again unfamiliar technology can take some time to get used to.
All of these factors will contribute to stress, anxiety, fatigue and are potentially detrimental to our mental health. So, what can be done to limit the likelihood of video call stress …

Keeping healthy while WFH

a) Ration:
Some situations will demand a video call but if you just use your phone then a standard phone call can be significantly less stressful. Avoid being pulled into video calls just because it’s a “new toy”; limit video calls to appropriate meetings.

b) Manage your time:
Don’t be sucked in to back to back video calls. Given the added strains discussed above, be kind to yourself and space them out during the day. If possible, once you have been on a video call take a break, have a coffee, go for a walk but definitely recharge your batteries.

c) Focus on the words:
During the call try to listen more and look less. One strategy might be to take notes – this will help you look away from the screen and listen to the discussion rather than staring at the images.

d) Preparation:
If you have a video call booked, plan ahead. Choose the best location to hold the call, put a sign on the door that you can’t be disturbed, prep the kids (depending on age bribes of snacks/money/privileges may be appropriate), wear clothes that display professionalism even if you are WFH (a pink unicorn onesie might have its place, but not on a video call with the boss!), and check what’s in the background – remove that half-eaten dinner and bottle of wine from last night/the washing that’s on the hanger/make the bed (delete as appropriate!)

We are living and working through extraordinary times. There are significant stressors in our everyday WFH life. Anything we can pro-actively do to improve our mental wellbeing will help us get through this in one piece, be kind to yourself and others and...

Remember:
#stayathomesavelives #protectTheNHS