Hiring and Retention

How to avoid burnout on video calls

Remote work has its perks, but spending eight hours a day in meetings on camera isn’t one of them. Research shows that video calls sap our energy and make it harder to focus, especially for those who don’t have a private work space at home. But there are some easy ways to stay productive and mitigate burnout, which the World Health Organization defines as a syndrome caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”  

Make a plan 

Once a video call begins, encourage your team to treat it as you would any in-person meeting. Have an agenda. Make introductions if necessary. Leave time for questions if appropriate, and encourage others to join in. What you don’t want: a two-hour free-for-all where nothing gets done. 

Stop multitasking 

Research shows that multitasking can cut your productivity by as much as 40%, according to the Harvard Business Review. It also affects how much information you retain. When you’re leading team meetings, close extraneous applications and tabs and silence your phone. Make it as easy as possible for you to focus on what’s in front of you. And encourage your team to do the same.  

Periodically go off camera 

Research suggests that we stare at ourselves during video calls, which can be distracting and lead to mental fatigue. You and your team should look away from the computer or turn off the camera from time to time during video calls. It will help you focus and keep everyone engaged long term. Just be sure they’re still listening.  

Think beyond the lens 

Not all meetings require video. Use the phone and email when possible. And if someone asks you to go on video with them to quickly touch base, say something like, “I could use a break from video calls.” 

Know your audience 

Resist the urge to go straight to video when you’re setting up calls with new clients, partners, or anyone else outside your organization. Starting with a phone call can put people at ease. 

Schedule slightly shorter calls 

Shoot for something in the range of  25- or 50-minute meetings. That way, if you have back-to-back meetings much of the day, you still have 5 to 10 minutes to  grab a snack before settling in for the next one. 

Take breaks 

Boost your physical and mental health by scheduling time each day to step away from work, even briefly. Whatever works for you—walking, running, yoga, a Zoom™ exercise class—try to establish a routine to help you stay on track. Also, stand up from your desk to stretch and walk around every hour. Keep forgetting? Set an alarm. And look for ways to sneak in extra steps, like walking around the block or up and down your stairs (if you have them). 

Set boundaries 

Giving employees permission to take a day off—better, a week-long vacation—will help them recharge. But this isn’t a cure-all solution. Respect their time by restricting most emails and messaging to when they’re on the clock. This, in turn, will encourage them to do the same and avoid blurring the boundaries between work and home life. 

Dress for success 

It may seem obvious, but get dressed in the morning—and encourage your team to do the same. Putting on “work clothes” marks the start of your work day, and changing into something else at the end of the day will reinforce boundaries, even when they’re hard to see.  

Test your tech 

When you’re tired from a long day of video calls, the last thing you want to do is struggle through a tech glitch or security threat. To avoid unanticipated issues, test your internet connection, preview your webcam before a video call, and check your microphone. Ask your team to do the same, and make sure they have the proper support they need when problems arise.