For many people Zoom, Skype, Houseparty, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout and Meet and the like have been a magnificent life raft in recent months. Indeed, for us, at Integrated Resources, this has been an extension to what is already the case, as saving time travelling takes a slice off the costs. However, it is worth considering why people are constantly saying to us that they feel extremely tired despite oftentimes not leaving their homes. Using technology solutions is not all upside, albeit there are many positives.
Using electronic methods for talking to each other, whether in small groups or large, is absolutely fantastic. Imagine a pandemic, such as the one we had in 1918 with business pace as it currently is and no means of communicating. Business would undoubtedly grind to a halt. Gone are the days where we are waiting for letters in the post. It is not so long ago that this was the case, and we have got so used to the immediacy of the internet that we cannot imagine life without it. As a result the pace of business life has rapidly and exponentially increased but, with it, comes a certain amount of stress; demand and expectation have gone up and everybody wants ‘it’ now.
I went on a two-day psychometric workshop a few weeks ago and felt completely poleaxed after 16 hours over two days on screen. Many therapists are adapting to virtual psychotherapy and the rest of us are adapting to virtual classrooms, and indeed all our own training for clients is now live and online with breakout rooms, etc.
On our many media platforms, we all try to mimic the normal face-to-face contact as far as possible, but there are many, and neuroscientists have confirmed this, who say that the distortions and delays in video communication make certain individuals feel isolated, anxious and disconnected. Sometimes, perhaps, it is useful to speak on the phone so that you are not continually wondering about how you are looking, the visual impact you are making and how your voice is sounding and how you are, often unconsciously, comparing yourself with other people. Added to this is the way that digital images are digitally encoded so that we experience lots of freezing, blurring, moonwalking and out of sync audio. Often these disruptions are at an unconscious level, but they, nonetheless, help to scramble our brains. So, that can explain why we feel rather tired but don’t always understand why.
It seems that we become tired more easily and that, in itself, makes us feel less capable. We might say that practice makes perfect, but actually, it’s good to take some breaks by using the telephone instead of the screen. On the ‘phone, although certain ‘subliminals’ are lost, you are enabled to focus on one thing - namely the voice, its volume, its pace, its tone and telephone communication can be extremely effective. The thing is, that when we’re using the screen as a work lifeline, then the social delight of being able to chat to friends while talking, cooking dinner or drinking that much needed gin and tonic, diminishes and what was once a pleasure, visual calls, can become something rather vexatious.
Those who don’t work or who have been furloughed and may have not experienced screen exhaustion, find other issues. If you don’t experience the fatigue of onscreen working, then it’s hard to understand the reluctance to be in on family calls, as other relatives may find it a delightful social break in their more relaxed existence. The same is true of those who have been furloughed who may not understand the intensity of screen work and that it is very different for those who have not been furloughed.
There is also the additional problem of facial mimicry, which we all engage in without knowing it. It is all part of empathy, to connect and recognise emotion and mimic the other party. This is increased, of course, with visual interplay through internet means and can help as well as hinder communications.
So, all in all, the mental challenges suggest that we are having to do more ‘adjustment’ work than we would normally in dealing with face-to-face meetings because we are reading things through a slight haze, with the interruptions described.
We are all too more aware of how we look on screen than before and whether our faces are too shiny or too matt and whether we’ve missed off our eyeliner and those who are perfectionists may make added demands on themselves.
Is it any wonder then that we are tired. It’s good to share this and know that you’re not alone.
If you’d like help on how best to work remotely, then do please get in touch; we have the advantage of having been working this way over the last nineteen years.