If you are not part of the front-liners and essential service workers, chances are you might be an expert in the video conferencing tool by now. It doesn’t matter you are using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, Google Meet, or any other tools in the market.
When physical businesses closed, it might be comforting for you to be able to see your colleagues and friend’s faces across the screen inches away from you…at least at the beginning. What many didn’t know that this comes at a price.
Now, let’s rewind ourselves before this pandemic. How often do you set your gaze and eye contact, totally unwavering for hours, not mentioning with the face just arm away from you? Every one of us has our personal-space-distancing techniques, whether it’s looking at the floor, scribbling over a piece of paper, or even just clicking of the pen.
We have been using this method to avoid long uncomfortable gaze on other people, but video conference changes all that.
Being in front of people is DIFFERENT from being in front of a camera
Do you remember the last time you stand in front of a stage, with a camera pointing at you, waiting for you to start speaking?
We, humans, tend to acts different in front of a camera. It automatically triggers a switch in us that makes us more aware of how we look and how we react in front of it. This switch drains an unnecessary amount of energy out of our daily reservoir, and this is precisely why we have been feeling way more tiring than our pre-pandemic work meetings.
This condition is what Professor Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford University refer to as Nonverbal Overload (NVO). We humans, as social creatures, are hardwired on worrying on other people’s perception of us.
You might say, “Our team are much more productive now than ever since we started video conferencing”. It is undoubtedly, with stares and gazes from the screen, we are much more productive, and are more careful about what we say and react. However, this wears out both party significantly. Do you want to have a short sprint of productivity or a great marathon team?
If you are firm-believer of the latter, read on for some tips to overcome NVO.
1. Saving the BEST for the most IMPORTANT
For as long as telephony exist, audio-only communication has been proven effective to date. Video conference does not kill audio-only communication, but instead, it just enhances it. That doesn’t mean you need to do every single meeting with the camera active. For some routine meeting, it is OK to have audio-only meetings and be sure to let everyone know that it is OK.
2. Treat virtual meeting as you will a normal meeting
When we arrange for our regular physical meetings, we always allocate some buffer times in between to allow us some break time while we grab our coffee, toilet visit or even walk over to another meeting room. However, in virtual meetings, we jump straight to the next meeting by a mouse click. Try scheduling at least 10 – 20 minutes of break in between your meetings and use that time to recompose and reset yourself.
3. Take a break during long meetings
Virtual meetings tend to drag over a long period, and often unsupervised. If you are hosting the meeting, set a reminder to get a short break at least once every 1 hour. By creating a gap in meetings, people can take a breather and also stop them from being swayed out of focus.
4. STOP using video call over everything
It’s tempting to call up a video call over every single meeting, big or small. When you do this, it makes every meeting less important. If you can do it with a call or message, stop organizing a video call for it.
5. Don’t dive into business right away
As social interaction gets lower day by day, we will often forget that the person over the other side is also human. Take some time to catch up with each other before diving into the business. Ask about their wellbeing and how they are doing.
As social creatures, we will segregate our social roles into different places. We go to the office to work, chill and relax over the bar or restaurant, and the gym to workout. All this no longer exist (at least for now), and we have jumbled everything together in this single “virtual space”.
While it’s unavoidable for now, try your very best to separate some of your social roles to different places, and your brain will thank you for it.
If you think this article helped, remember to share it to your managers and colleagues and change the video calling to something to enjoy.