HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development

Driving the Stress Out of Video Meetings

While Zoom and other virtual meeting tools have been a lifeline for remote workforces, managers should consider reducing them where possible to help lessen unnecessary stress and mental drain.

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Widespread access to videoconferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, as well as the high-speed Internet that enables them, has enabled millions of white-collar workers around the country to carry out business with minimal hiccups from their homes.

This virtual interconnectedness was unthinkable 20 years ago. However, video meetings are still not the same as in-person meetings.

Video Meetings are Simply Different …

While technology has allowed remote work to approximate the “real world” since the pandemic hit, there is a level of interaction and collaboration that simply can’t be transferred to the virtual world. Additionally, many employees have found that virtual meetings leave them drained in ways that in-person meetings didn’t.

For an article in BBC Worklife, Manyu Jiang spoke to Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead who explores sustainable learning and development in the workplace, and Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University who studies workplace well-being and teamwork effectiveness.

Petriglieri suggests that being on a video chat requires more focus because there’s a greater need to pay attention to nonverbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language.

“Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” Petriglieri says.

Petriglieri and Shuffler add that silence can be stressful on video chats but feels natural during in-person meetings. The sense of being “on camera” also often makes meeting participants feel a strong sense of being watched. It’s not a positive feeling.

Reducing the Stress of Video Meetings

Fortunately, there are some simple strategies managers can use to help decrease these added stressors. First, they can consider reducing the number of virtual meetings required of employees per day or per week.

For meetings that are required, managers can consider making the video element optional. While there are certainly benefits to seeing participants, it may not be necessary for every meeting.

Finally, simply acknowledging the added stress of what seems like a constant barrage of video meetings and admitting they feel the pain, too, can help managers reduce employee angst around these constant calls.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created enormous levels of stress for employees around the country. It may be beneficial for managers to consider reducing the number of virtual meetings when looking to boost employee morale and mental health.