It has been calculated that some executives spend up to an average of 23 hours per week in virtual meetings. This has been taking a toll on all of us, according to new research from Stanford University. Even as businesses, including community financial institutions, get back to the office, these virtual meetings will likely continue to a certain degree. So, we wanted to provide you with some insights from Stanford’s study to help your management teams and staff.According to a recent Stanford University study, most people find hours on Zoom, the ubiquitous video conferencing platform — or any other such platform for that matter — both physically and mentally exhausting and there are good reasons for this. Up close and personal. Lots of up-close eye contact is too intense. Even if you talk with other people during the day, there’s a good chance that you’re not face-to-face in every conversation. But in a Zoom call, faces often appear at a size that suggests to your nervous system that you’re very close to that person. Human brains read that as a situation that will lead to either fighting or mating and goes into a state of hyperarousal accordingly. We’re built to accommodate a little of that, but not for 23 hours a week. Center of attention. It feels like everyone is looking at you. In an in-person meeting, participants look at the speaker, at their notes, or even out the window. On a Zoom call, everyone is looking at everyone else, without a break. Most of us feel anxious when we’re under that much scrutiny, even if we know the audience is friendly.Looking at yourself. You’d never agree to have another person follow you around with a mirror, showing you how you look during all conversations. Seeing your face in a virtual meeting also gives you more chances than usual to critique your own appearance, which is stressful and detracts from the meeting’s true focus.Tied to your screen. Talk in-person or on the phone, and you can walk around at the same time. Research shows that people’s minds perform better when they’re also moving, which is why you get great ideas when you’re out for a walk. You have to work harder to make your brain work at a high level while you’re sitting still and that’s tiring.Working harder to communicate. Talking to someone else in-person is very natural. When we do it, we easily interpret both verbal and nonverbal information. With a videoconference, on the other hand, participants have to get the technology right, then work harder to both send and interpret signals. What are the solutions? One solution may actually happen as vaccines ramp up — having more in-person meetings to balance virtual meetings, as branches open up more fully. If virtual meetings continue, which is likely, the report’s recommendations come down to two big suggestions.
- Reduce the size of your Zoom window. Don’t use the full-screen option.
- Turn off the video feature for some of the meetings, if possible. Using Zoom on the audio-only setting gives you a break, plus it can let you move around a bit. This move gives you a much lower cognitive load, and as a result, makes you less fatigued.
While the second suggestion may not be an option, one smaller step is to “turn off” your own picture for yourself. But, remember, people still see you. This option simply lets you put the focus back where it belongs, on the meeting and its agenda.