I cannot even begin to count the number of videoconferences I've done since the beginning of March.

I've worked exclusively at home for 11 years, and so I thought I was as up to date as anyone on remote communication. I teach a daily class via Skype and thought I was prepared for all my real-life meetings to be replaced with videoconferences--mostly Zoom.

But I find them exhausting. And today, after a particularly harrowing one that lasted an hour and a half, I had to walk into the living room and get my son back on his school videoconference. And by then, I felt like a nap was in order. (Sadly, I did not do this.)

It turns out I'm not alone. The BBC spoke to some experts:  academics and workplace experts Gianpiero Petriglieri and Marissa Shuffler. They explained what's up. 

  • Video chats require more concentration. Everything from the lack of body language to the awkwardness of beginning and ending conversations plays a role in exhausting people. One thing I've specifically noticed is abrupt startings and endings. They make for a weird dynamic.
  • There's no change of scenery. This seems like a ridiculous explanation for exhaustion, but Petriglieri gives this explanation: "Imagine if you go to a bar, and in the same bar you talk with your professors, meet your parents, or date someone. Isn't it weird? That's what we're doing now." This is true. I'm doing work, church, school, therapy, talking with grandparents, and meeting friends all while sitting in the same chair at the same desk. Sometimes I switch from one meeting to another without even getting out of the chair. That's weird.
  • Everything is work. Because work and fun are in the same format, a meeting with friends can feel like work. Yes, you're talking about fun things, but you've set up just like a meeting.

So, how can we fix this?

We can stop having so many meetings. We might want to have daily video check-ins, but do we really need to? Meeting your friends via video chat helps you keep in contact, but if you feel overwhelmed and exhausted, it might be a good time to cut back on your video chatting.

While you can be thankful that videoconferences help keep us safe during this pandemic, you can also take a step back. And listen to your employees--if they say they are overwhelmed or can't handle one more videoconference, listen. Sometimes, a phone call is OK. Sometimes, an email is OK. We don't have to do everything face-to-face.