Video calls constitute an integral part of our new normal, an extraordinary resource that safeguarded business continuity during quarantine and allows us to consider a hybrid new working model. But we know how incredibly exhausting can be if we have too many in one day.
A day full of video calls is incredibly tiring. Especially for the mind. And it takes us into the evening with a heavy head.
Here’s a reflection on how to appreciate the video calls (or continue to do so) and avoid them becoming our worst nightmare.
Quarantine, home office and digitization
The quarantine imposed for the containment of Covid-19 contagions had as a first consequence an incredible speed up of digitalization. It is a fact: if we did not stop, as many feared, it was also and above all thanks to technology. It’s precisely with this purpose that Municipalities, universities, have advertised services and opportunities related to the digital world: from online courses on various topics to cultural proposals (the wonderful online visits to museums, for example), to recreational and educational activities for children.
The stress out of video calls: always connected and in alert mode!
The protagonist of our daily life has become the video call for everyone. Initially welcomed as a small and pleasant game of prestige, it soon turned out to be a source of stress and burnout for the worker at the time of quarantine. Over the course of these months many researchers have taken an interest in this issue. And the results of their analysis have been published in international newspapers. Which are the factors causing stress related to online meetings through video calls? At first, transforming a space dedicated to work at home is not easy and even when we do, we feel as if work invades our private lives. The level of attention required is higher. Calls, especially those with an active webcam, make us feel under a magnifying glass all the time. Body language is important to effective communications; that is extremely important in working relationships – only with the voice, our brain has a hard time interpreting the intentions, mood and – in general – the reactions of colleagues.
Another great source of stress is sound interference. The connection is often not perfect, we are missing some fragments of sentences, we hear “distant” the voice of our colleagues, in addition to their voice our ear is forced to perceive the many disturbing noises that occur even in the best virtual collaboration tools. All this causes mental tiring that accumulates and emerges at the end of the day. And that in the long run can affect our productivity and our personal serenity. Add above all, we struggle of being available all the time. We are always connected. Technology allows us to be reachable everywhere: via PC or smartphone. The great flexibility of use that technology offers us, should not be ‘one size fits to all’ but rather become something that is tailored to our needs: work and private life.
Be conscious of what’s wrong, make an effort to improve it
So, video calls must not become a nightmare. As with all things, awareness is the first step towards improvement. If something is wrong before we throw it away, we have to try and fix it. And yes, we can do it with video calls. It’s not easy, of course, since it’s a necessary tool for our work. But let’s try to analyze it and make it fit to our daily life as much as possible. First, the timing: is it necessary to make so many calls? Let’s study our tasks and see to what extent we can be autonomous in a specific work process. Are we sure we need to do an update on a topic every Monday? Why not making a slightly longer call on alternate Mondays? Secondly, let’s look at the alternatives. If we have to ask a colleague for something short, should we use traditional means and call him or her? With all the digital opportunities like any chatting app, why not write to your colleague? Third: it’s good to optimize the time but the breaks between calls are very important. Unless absolutely necessary, therefore, we do not hang up one call on the other. If we have many calls in a day, do our best to reserve time between them. In this time we have to force ourselves to get up a few seconds from our seat and immediately afterwards take care of another work task that does not require the direct involvement of other colleagues. Fourthly, let us talk to colleagues. If we have uncomfortable hours during the day and making calls at those times is uneasy for us, extremely unpleasant if not almost impossible, let us not try to adapt at any cost. Let us try to deal with colleagues first. If there are not too many people involved in the call, a compromise can be found. Surely it will be more helpful to your colleagues that you are focused and calm during calls with them rather than distracted and therefore unproductive.
Doing our job well, also means being able not to expect the impossible from ourselves and others. Calm and concentration go hand in hand. Work – Life Balance is still possible.