Zen Your Zoom Meetings: Tips to Lower 'Video Aversion'

Even as lockdowns lift, video conferences may maintain their popularity.

Posted May 08, 2020 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader

Video conferencing became the salvation for many businesses and institutions during the pandemic lockdown. Folks who had never made a FaceTime call before in their lives were being asked to “beam themselves up” for meetings with colleagues, clients, bosses, drinking buddies, Bunko besties, and church friends. The power of technology to bridge the world had never before been experienced as broadly as it was once the Ides of March were upon us this year.

Video meet-ups solved a lot of problems related to staying connected to our resources and sources of support. It was something of a “pandemic panacea” for communication and the continuity of our “old lives.” However, there are drawbacks to video conferencing that even the most diehard extroverts experienced to their disappointment.

Disconcertingly Dissonant

There’s a sense of dissonance to being present through video but distanced in body. We have spent enough time in front of television, movie, and computer screens in our lives that we expect to be “entertained” while watching the action on our screen. Yet even though we are the “watchers” in video meetings, we are the “performers,” as well. There is a performative nature to our presence on Zoom calls, and we are required to be actively engaged with the activities we are viewing. This change to our old expectation of being only the perceiver to now being perceiver/performer takes more energy than we might have expected, and Zoom calls can leave us exhausted.

Filtered Communication

We also are typically having to watch the screen more intently to try and pick up the non-verbal communication that is typically so easily and naturally done in person. We can’t see faces and slight changes in expression as easily as we do in person. And we have to realize that our colleagues’ expression are filtered through their camera lens, the internet, and then through our own screens. We are seeing a filtered view of each other—and that changes our effectiveness in communication.

With the majority of our professional, social, community, and faith activities taking place through our computer screens, we are actually experiencing the loss of expression of our complex, separate identities that create our unified self. We are showing up in the same space and using the same medium as we engage with the world as the “corporate boss,” the “loyal friend,” the “team member,” the “romantic at heart,” the “sports fanatic,” and so on. Confined to the screen, we may feel stifled and fatigued. When there are fewer opportunities to express all aspects of ourselves, we are prone to experience feelings of negativity and a sense of something missing or hollow.

Some people begin to resent having to “show up” via video calls for all aspects of our social and professional interactions. At the end of a long workday spent “performing” at video meetings, showing up for friends may seem more of a drag than a pick-me-up. Social Zooming should not feel like an obligation—that’s a warning sign that you need to get a better sense of control over your work-life balance in some way.

1. Create and maintain a specific “work zone” in your home. Only do work-related tasks at that spot, if at all possible. Even if all you can do at the end of the workday is shut the lid on your laptop for a few minutes or turn off your desk lamp. If it’s multi-use space, at least take a break after your last call is done and walk away. Clear your head.

2. Build routines that support well-being. Take breaks between all of your video meetings. Build in quick exercise breaks, hydration breaks, or meditation breaks. After you exit a meeting, close your eyes, roll your shoulders back while keeping your back straight, and then breathe deeply and slowly, for about 10-15 breaths, allowing yourself to feel the breath go deep into your belly before slowly exhaling. This calms your mind, rests your eyes, and settles your body.

3. Your eyes were not meant to stare at a screen as long as many of us are now expected to be doing. Make sure you keep your eyes hydrated, too. Blink at least 10-15 times each minute. Use saline drops for your eyes if they’re especially dry or irritated. Every 15 minutes or so, take a break from the screen and stare at something in the distance—this relieves the muscles in your eyes and helps protect your vision acuity.

4. One drawback to video meetings is the lack of opportunity for informal chitchat at the start of meetings as everyone enters the room. Because there’s a “turn-taking” and formality involved in video calls, it makes it hard to support the collegiality that usually happens informally. Try to minimize this by changing up the opening of each meeting. At the start of even work meetings, take time to check-in with your colleagues. This shows a sense of caring for people and helps people relax into yet another video conference.

5. Remember, sitting for more than three hours a day can increase the risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, chronic pain, and high blood pressure. So don’t just plant and grow roots at your computer. Take some meetings by phone so that you can stand up and walk around. After each meeting, move around and sneak in some stretches or calisthenics. Break up the middle of an hours-long meeting with a “stretch break” for the group! Everyone will welcome it!