Managers Deal With The Problem Of Too Much Videoconferencing

It is possible to become burned out on video conferencing
It is possible to become burned out on video conferencing
Image Credit: Kai Hendry

As the world has changed and we are all working remotely, video conferencing has arrived as a way for everyone to stay in contact. In the beginning it was an amusing novelty and gave us a chance to see where everyone lives. However, the initial novelty has now worn off. Just about everyone has become tired of video conferencing and sorta wishes that it would go away. As a manager, you need your team to stay connected and video conferencing is an important tool. What can you do to use your manager skills to prevent video conferencing burn out?

The Problem With Video Conferencing

We are probably experiencing some form of videoconferencing burn out right about now. We are battling an onslaught of video calls, digital events, and online happy hours. Too many of us are in 3 different Slacks, 4 different Discords, in countless videoconference Happy Hours, and even more virtual events. All we want to do right now is to find a way to disconnect.

What we are experiencing is videoconferencing burnout as we shift our work lives from meeting in a conference room to meeting on a video call. The reason that this is all so difficult for us is that we are dealing with the awkwardness and anxiety of staring at the supposed flaws in our own face and we are not knowing when to cut a call short when we don’t technically have anywhere else to be. The result of all of this is that our new work lives are lawless, with no manager training to let us know how to navigate difficult situations for which we have no prior blueprints.

I think that we all understand that social contact right now is more important than ever. However, it’s okay to feel stressed out and want to avoid what seems like little more than new venues for anxiety. Yes, you should make an occasional effort to get some kind of social interaction with friends and family. No, you shouldn’t feel like you need to be accepting every invitation that comes your way. What we need are ways to wiggle out of unwanted invites and overcome other small anxieties.

Learn How To Manage Your Videoconferencing

Many of us are just dealing with too many videoconferences. It turns out that video calls can be more emotionally exhausting than a regular meeting, according to psychologists. The problem is that with videoconferences you can’t rely on body language for communication. For those managers with social anxiety, videoconferencing makes it harder to draw boundaries. Team members get to see into your environmental context, it becomes unclear when ‘meeting’ should end, and certain social cues that are easily read in real life can be much harder to read virtually.

In order to better control how many video conferences you find yourself in, the occasional white lie about your schedule is fine. You can also say that you’re tired or have other plans, without it being a big deal. In many cases honesty is the best policy. You can simply be more authentic, be more real. It’s perfectly fine to say that you’re not feeling up to another videoconference today. Scheduling yourself non-negotiable “videoconference time” can also ensure you’re not getting wrangled into video calls you don’t have the energy for. Blocking out a couple of hours a week – say, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays and Sundays – can help keep your calendar from getting overloaded, and can also provide you with a good out if you’re not in the mood.

What managers need to remember, and it can be difficult to do this these days, is that we do have an alternative: we can just call people. Remember that any contact is better than none. Video calls are a particularly demanding form of connection, and if you just can’t do it as often as team members wish you could, it’s okay. However, managers need to realize that seeing someone’s face has more of an impact on a team member’s sense of isolation than just hearing their voice. So if you can push yourself to participate in a videoconference every once in a while, you probably should.

One of the problems with videoconferences that many managers are dealing with is that unlike real-life conversations, video calls often force you to stare at your own face for the duration of the call. If you happen to be insecure about your appearance or merely find your floating head distracting, it can make participating in video calls unpleasant. The good news for us is that there’s not necessarily any need to keep your camera on the entire time. We should turn on our camera when we join a meeting so others can see you and ‘know’ you’re there. You can turn it off after that and team building can still happen. A lot of managers will turn their camera off when they’re not speaking, but turn it back on when they are. This is a great recommendation for team-related calls, and it has the added bonus of easing the strain on your internet connection if your connection isn’t the best.

What All Of This Means For You

The world has changed and a lot more of what managers do is now being done from home with us using videoconferencing to connect with the members of our team. Some managers would say that too much of this videoconferencing is currently going on. It can be too easy for a manger to start to experience videoconferencing burnout. We need to take steps to make sure that this does not happen to us.

One of the biggest problems that we have with videoconferencing is that one of the ways that we communicate with other people is by using body language. Video conferencing does not allow us to do this. We are also inviting other people into our homes and we may not feel comfortable doing that. We can control how many videoconferences we get involved in by turning down offers or blocking out time where we tell everyone that we won’t be on conferences. We need to remember that we can always just pick up the phone and call people. If you don’t like seeing your image while on a video call, feel free to turn your camera off after joining the call.

Let’s face it: our lives were already increasingly online; videoconferencing has just transformed it into a new, enforced way of life. With no established guidelines and no experience dealing with anything like this before, it’s normal if managers feel like their life is totally out of whack. But by setting boundaries, being honest, and occasionally pushing yourself to socialize even if you’re feeling a bit low-energy, we’ll all find a way get through it. For some of us, we may emerge with a newfound ability to better manage our team.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What is the bests way for a manager to detect when a team member is starting to experience videoconferencing burnout?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The goal of every manager is to find a way to get the most out of each of their team members. What this means is that we need use our manager skills to stay on top of them and always be monitoring what their current status is. What we need to be looking for are team members who are feeling remote or disconnected. They won’t be able to function well with the rest of the team and their work performance may start to slack off. One thing that managers need to keep their eyes open for is when the younger members of their team start to show signs of feeling lonely – this is when a manager needs to step in.