Video Calls: How to strike the right balance

May 25, 2021

Jen Farr & Mohammad Raza

While video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become a critical component of staying connected with the office over the last year, they can also be mentally draining. It’s important to find the right balance, especially as many of us continue to work remotely, to ensure that we’re leveraging these tools to the best of our ability while also looking out for our mental health in the process.

As we head into what we hope will be the final stretch of the pandemic, we’ve put together some recommendations on how to utilize virtual platforms to stay connected with your teams – AND set boundaries – to mitigate the dreaded and very real “Zoom fatigue”:

Staying connected

  • Schedule regular casual team hangouts: Consider having an informal get-together at the end of the work week, allowing staff to de-stress in a safe space and talk about non-work-related things. Implementing games and activities (trivia and scattergories are favourites at K&P) will also help build deeper connections within your team, which will ultimately build camaraderie to aid teamwork. This can also be helpful for new employees to get to know the team on a more personal level if they’ve been onboarded virtually.
  • Institute a working-group livestream: While some employees feel the pressure of being on camera, others find the lack of in-person visibility with their peers equally jarring. One option is to have a channel or livestream where employees can log in as they work and while others work, to mimic the feeling of working alongside each other while in a virtual setting. It’s certainly not the same, but it’s as close to resembling the office atmosphere that we can get while working remotely.
  • Host team brainstorms: Brainstorms are an engaging and productive way for your teams to exercise their creativity and think outside the box. Many virtual tools and platforms now come with virtual whiteboard capabilities and even makeshift markers, so continuing to host brainstorms just as you would in the office is a great way to maintain a sense of teamwork while being physically apart.

As helpful as platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are, video calls can often be more exhausting than face-to-face meetings. This is because in a traditional meeting environment, we can avert our gaze for periods of time, rather than locking eyes with our colleagues, clients and ourselves for the full duration of a meeting. Here are some tips that can help alleviate the strain:

Setting boundaries

  • Disable self-view: Consistently seeing ourselves on screen can lead to self-focused attention which can trigger anxiety and negative emotions. Even if we don’t intend to, we will inevitably be looking at ourselves for an extended period of time, enhancing the pressures of needing to “perform” and possibly even losing focus on what is being said in the meeting.
  • Move around: Sitting still in front of a screen all day can make us feel like we’re “always on”, which can be extremely tiring for many. Even our busiest days at the physical office would include the occasional walk to the kitchen or down the hall, so try to incorporate these small breaks of movement in your remote routine as well. It’s good for your physical health as well as your mental health.
  • Don’t maximize the call window: Having a video meeting on a big screen makes participants show up as overly-large heads, which can make our perceptual system think that our coworkers are closer to us than is comfortable. If you’re working with dual monitors, keeping the call window on the smallest screen can also help.
  • Consider a phone call or email: When possible, try to see if your video meeting can be done over a phone call, email or Slack instead. This gives colleagues and clients the flexibility to perhaps take the call while on a short walk, standing up, or at the very least – not need to feel as if they need to perform on screen.

Here at K&P, we have also introduced something we call K&PJ Thursdays, at which any internal meeting is to be conducted off-video to give ourselves a weekly break. Besides, what are Thursdays for, if not for working in our pjs? It’s our new favourite day of the week!

We also recognize that back-to-back meetings in a virtual world can be more mentally taxing than when we were at the physical office, as even the few minutes respite we took while switching boardrooms have now been eliminated. This leaves mere seconds – if any time at all – in between meetings, which is why we also encourage our colleagues to schedule 20 and 50-minute meetings whenever possible. This leaves a 10-minute buffer in between meetings to allow a bit of breathing room for necessities that would otherwise be perpetually skipped over until “later”, such as hydration, bathroom breaks and just stretching our legs.

With the warm weather finally here and vaccine rollouts ramping up across the country, we’re hopeful that in-person meetings aren’t too far away. In the meantime, we’re grateful to have technology to rely on to keep us connected to our clients and colleagues – and to have a supportive team that not only understands the importance of moderation and balance along the way, but also encourages it.

Have a question? Interested in finding out more?