I didn’t have much time to write today, because this is one of those extra-busy times at work when I forget to take breaks, work through most of lunch, etc. But that’s good. It makes days go fast.
One thing that is different about my work, as it is with a lot of people who work in high tech companies, is all the video meetings. I dearly love getting to see my coworkers, and I enjoy meeting with friends online as well, but it’s hard to do more than a couple of hours a day, so I miss a lot of after-work gatherings.
My eyes get tired and my ears get worn out both from wearing headphones for so long and from working to understand people with poor connections or who are talking over each other. I keep seeing how weird I look, like how my head is always turned, because my main monitor is to the right of the laptop with the camera. I keep trying to look people in the eye, but when I look at the camera, I can’t even see the person I am trying to look at! (I do find one-on-one meetings easier, especially when you are problem solving and can share screens and such.)
I had been wondering why this was the case until I ran across this fine Slate article on Zoom call burnout this morning, by Christina Cauterucci. She feels my pain. The title, “I Will Not Be Attending Your Exhausting Zoom Gathering,” explains it all. Many of us can only interact virtually for so long. One reason we get so tired is that we miss a lot of subtle cures, so we end up staring at people trying to pick up when they want to speak, etc. Cauterucci notes:
“Even if you don’t think you miss locking eyes with your loved ones or colleagues, your brain might. Eye contact plays a documented role in successful human communication. One 2017 study from the University of Cambridge found that when infants and adults locked eyes, their brain waves were better able to “synchronize”; a 2019 study from the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan suggests that eye contact primes the brain for empathy. We’re also accustomed to picking up on messages our interlocutors send with their bodies, which give us clues about their comfort level, the direction and intensity of their focus, and whether they’re preparing to speak.”Slate, May 12, 2020
Another issue she points out that I didn’t realize was an issue before: you don’t get any breaks. People can TELL if you start looking at your phone, reading your email, or otherwise losing focus. Believe me, they notice your fidgeting. I have a couple of people I Zoom with who are constantly throwing their arms in the air, moving around on their chair, and doing stuff. On the other hands, others just sit there, looking perfectly groomed and attentive the whole time. How do they do that?
At least you can still fire up your chat window and ask people, “What they heck are they talking about?” and “Why are they shouting?” I choose to believe people think I’m taking notes. HA HA. Or you can play Zoom Bingo, which got my coworker Karen upset:
I guess we don’t have much choice. If we want to work virtually, we have to do this, even when a call would probably suffice. Or an email! Hey, let’s use the best tool for the task. That’s a good idea! We are very fortunate to be people who have all these tools, and I hereby acknowledge my privilege.
Honestly, I am grateful to be able to talk to friends, attend meetings for my nonprofit organizations, and see my coworkers. I’m sure it was harder on people during the flu epidemic in the early 20th century! I bet they complained a lot about the quality of their pens and paper, and how many stamps they had to lick!
That reminds me, I’m still writing those letters to people whose addresses I have. Most are just short notes, but it’s fun, especially when I hear back from people. I usually just manage one or two a day. At least hand writing uses different muscles than typing does. Many days my hands ache from typing, even when I use the lovely hemp cream I keep at my desk.
So, what are you doing to stay in touch? I blog. Oh, you noticed.