Learning About Video Call Fatigue and How You Can Avoid It

12 May 2020

As we continue to work from home, we find ourselves making more video calls and joining more virtual meetings. Recently people have been noticing they are experiencing a unique kind of fatigue that comes with these excess amounts of video chats. According to BBC News, who spoke with Gianpiero Petriglieri, an expert in sustainable learning and development in the workplace, “Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat...Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy.” Video calls are another element everyone is experiencing with quarantining due to COVID-19, and I think that it is the culmination of these experiences that makes the fatigue from video calls that much more noticeable. 

While we quarantine at home, we are subjected to the same surroundings for extended periods. This is necessary for our health and safety but opens the door to some mental and physical health risks. According to the CDC, the stressors that accompany coping with an outbreak like this while quarantining at home can lead to: 

  • Fear and worry about your health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of mental health conditions

These factors mean people have to stay more vigilant than ever over their physical and mental health, and that takes energy and focus. 

Leaving home these days is also a stressful activity as there are many things people have to watch out for; this can make a simple errand to get essential groceries exhausting. Things that were not stressful before have become stressful, and over time this takes its toll on a person. 

All of this change is disrupting our normalcy and adapting to that disruption is tiring. Piling on video calls, which require a lot of attention, on top of everything else can make these calls feel so tiring. There is a theory described by Petriglieri called the self-complexity theory (published by Patricia W. Linville), which argues that “individuals have multiple aspects – context-dependent social roles, relationships, activities and goals – and we find the variety healthy. When these aspects are reduced, we become more vulnerable to negative feelings.” He goes on to use a helpful analogy to explain this lack of variety we are currently experiencing, “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… We are confined in our own space, in the context of a very anxiety-provoking crisis, and our only space for interaction is a computer window.

As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to work from home, which requires us to still be on virtual calls with our coworkers and our loved ones. So how do you prevent fatigue from too many video calls?  Here are a few things you can practice: 

  • Have fewer virtual calls if possible.
  • Don’t require people to have their webcams turned on. 
  • Don’t feel like you have to keep the conversation window open. Minimize the window and keep the conversation going in the background while working on other things, if possible. 
  • Consider alternatives to video communication. There are many ways you can facilitate your business communication, such as Slack or Discord.

Here at Engineerica, we only have video calls when necessary and when we do, we will usually keep our cameras off. So far, this has been working very well for us and we have been able to avoid video call fatigue, allowing us to channel that energy into other more productive tasks. 

Have you been experiencing video call fatigue at work? Let us know in the comments as well as any other tips you have for communicating while working from home. 



BBC - Video chat is helping us stay employed and connected. But what makes it so tiring - and how can we reduce ‘Zoom fatigue’?

Linville, Patricia W. - Self-complexity and affective extremity: Don't put all of your eggs in one cognitive basket.

USA Today - What's 'Zoom fatigue'? Here's why video calls can be so exhausting

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