Digital fatigue is real.
Whether you use Zoom, Teams, or some other webinar service, there is a good chance that you, your team, or your employees are experiencing some sort of exhaustion because of video conferencing.
With this in mind, it might be time to re-evaluate the format of your virtual training. While programs like DiSC promote interpersonal connectedness, video conferencing might be making individuals on a team irritable and emotionally drained.
Women or individuals with certain disabilities are at a disadvantage when Zoom trainings are used. However, there are three ways trainers can eliminate some of the fatigue felt by their learners today.
- Encourage learners to turn off Self-view mode
- Encourage Audio Only interactions
- Ask learners to take physical notes (versus notes in Zoom or on Word / Google Docs.
Stanford University is only just beginning to study if it’s possible to identify different levels of exhaustion that we feel after a day of numerous meetings. The Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue (ZEF Scale) would eventually be able to offer personalized solutions to help anyone overcome their own fatigue. Today, you and your learners can take the following steps to ensure your DiSC training program doesn’t cause additional fatigue.
1 - Turn off 'self-view' mode
Imagine a mirror-maze at a carnival or a fair.
These exhibitions are exciting. They can be thrilling and fun to walk through seeing yourself from so many different angles.
Now imagine if you were stuck in one for two hours. Or, every day you had to go through one for 30-45 minutes at a time. Zoom isn’t a mirror maze, but the self-view mode is essentially like holding a mirror up next to ourselves for long periods of time.
Zoom and other video conferencing tools create lots of anxiety simply by projecting an image of ourselves. Our minds don’t know how to process an image of ourselves over long periods of time.
Most webinar platforms allow users to turn off the self-view mode. In fact, trainers and facilitators can encourage their participants to turn off this feature before they begin their DiSC Workshop.
2 - Allow Audio Only Interactions
Human communication has evolved where we can seamlessly identify a person’s emotions and thinking without them needing to confirm what they are thinking and feeling.
Non-verbal communication, while not always correct, comes with ease for most people.
Our bodies have evolved to allow non-verbal communication to flourish. Our skin blushes when we are embarrassed. Our eyes evolved to have a higher ratio of whiteness around the pupil so others can track our gaze. Our face is full of expressions; frowning (sadness/disappointment); raised eyebrows (excitement / surprise); lowered eyebrows (frustration).
Unfortunately, video conferencing muddies these expressions because it’s unclear who the expressions are for.
Someone who might have had their attention pulled away momentarily from something in their room could cause us to feel like we aren’t being paid enough attention. A small child might have knocked over something in our room causing us to look concerned.
It’s silly, but it’s real.
Now, there are also many things that could happen during a video call that would never happen when we are face to face:
- A screen freezes
- The audio has an echo
- There are so many heads and eyeballs staring at you
It’s important to recognize that video conferencing is hard because it’s so unnatural. While we can rationalize why it’s happening, it doesn’t make it easier for us to process while continuing to learn new subjects.
To combat all of this, encourage your learners to turn off their video cameras.
If you allow for audio-only interactions, you are actually giving your learners a mental break. In fact, research is finding that learners are more engaged when the camera is turned off.
This is especially true for new members of a team or women.
There is a real possibility in the future where the video is only used in a very limited capacity. Time will tell as more research is conducted on how video affects teams and organizations.
3 - Encourage learners to take physical notes
In 2017, before we had a label for Zoom Fatigue, Harvard University recommended that we should limit our screen time. Researchers found that our eyes become strained and dry the longer we stay in front of a screen. At the time, the researchers called the syndrome Computer Vision Syndrome.
Zoom fatigue shares many of the same issues that researchers were identifying in 2017. As hybrid and remote work increases, these same symptoms are popping up.
Encourage your learners to move away from their computers by pushing their monitors away from them or setting their laptops further in front of them. Suggest they take notes on a notepad or a sheet of paper to encourage distance between them and their screen.
Finally, trainers should be aware of the 20-20-20 rule. The American Optometric Association recommends that for every 20 minutes spent using a screen, a person should look away at something that is 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
When to still use video conferencing
For all of the issues that video conferencing can cause, it’s important to recognize that video conferencing can be a vital way to connect over long distances.
The first holiday season of 2020 brought many families to their computers, tablets, and phones to connect over holiday meals when the whole family couldn’t be together.
Video conferencing is still useful.
Rather than completely turn off video cameras all of the time, it’s important to discuss when cameras should be used.
The Association of Talent Development (ATD) recently wrote an article titled “Can Hybrid Training Work?” The author, Robert Kienzle, states that the key facilitator skill that is needed during hybrid (and virtual training) is awareness.
In April 2020, our own organization made statements that video cameras should always be on during virtual DiSC training. We recognize now that we should have directed the conversation towards when cameras should be used rather than if they should be used.
Here are some questions to help decide if or how much video interaction you should use:
- How long is the training program?
- Is the program virtual or hybrid?
- Does the training include new employees in the organization?
- Will the use of video enhance the training?
Likely, you already collect feedback on your programs to asses the success of your training. It could be beneficial to add a question about the use of video and if it helped enhance your learner’s experience.
As organizations and trainers move towards more virtual training, it’s important we all continue to improve our awareness of how this new medium affects learners and take the opportunity to refine how we use these tools.