Virtual meetings have many advantages, like enabling team collaboration without geographic barriers. However, video calls have also been proven to cause burnout, especially when they take place throughout the day.
Making video optional is an easy way to support mental health wellness for employees—which intersects strongly with creating a supportive workplace for people with disabilities.
Why Video Conferencing Can Cause Burnout and Anxiety
The Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab has identified 4 reasons why videoconferencing can cause heightened fatigue and stress, particularly for people with mental health conditions like anxiety.
- Video conversations, especially in a group setting, can be more intense than in-person interactions due to constant eye contact. Even if a participant doesn’t talk, they may experience a sense of constantly being in the spotlight and stared at.
- Seeing an image of oneself onscreen over an extended period can be stressful and distracting for many people. Researchers have identified similar emotional consequences when they ask people to watch themselves in mirrors for prolonged periods of time.
- Video calls can restrict movement by requiring people to stay in one spot and look directly at the screen. During an in-person meeting, people naturally turn their bodies toward different speakers, look down to take notes, and move locations between meetings. Because they are constantly on camera, a person may feel obligated to limit natural movement when seated, even during a long series of back-to-back calls.
- Video calls require a higher cognitive load, which pushes the limitations of a person’s working memory. Nonverbal communications like gestures are often lost in virtual meetings or require exaggeration.
A few easy strategies can help make virtual meetings more accessible for everyone:
- Allow meeting participants to choose audio-only options whenever possible to reduce the amount of camera time required, especially for internal meetings.
- Provide guidance to help employees avoid video call burnout. In particular, employees should feel empowered to schedule their day with “audio only” calls between any meetings that require video, and to schedule breaks for physical activity between meetings. Consider standardizing meeting times that start at the top of the hour and last 45 minutes, rather than running hour-long meetings back-to-back.
- During presentations, balance the needs of speakers and participants by making on-camera status a speaker request, but not a requirement. If comfortable for the speaker, appearing on camera does make a meeting more accessible by helping a captioner create accurate live captions and helping lip readers to understand information better.
With these simple techniques in place, employees can embrace the collaborative boosts from virtual meetings. Check out the rest of PEAT’s tips on Telework and Accessibility to keep making the workplace more inclusive.