Heads up team leaders! Before you schedule the next conference call, stop to ask yourself if it’s the best way to complete the task at hand. Are the benefits going to outweigh the exhaustion your team will feel toward the end of the hour, day or week.
“Zoom (or any other video chat tool) tires us out,” says Terri Kurtzberg PhD, author of Virtual Teams: Mastering Communication and Collaboration in the Digital Age and an associate professor of management and global business at Rutgers Business School in New Brunswick, NJ. Her areas of expertise include virtual teams, electronic communications, negotiation strategies and tactics, and organizational creativity. In other words, she’s done enough research and conducted enough studies to know.
“Virtual teams have many of the same challenges and problems that traditional teams do, but they tend to experience them to a greater extent (more often, more intensely, more quickly in the process, and more deeply rooted/difficult to eradicate.) Coupled with the changes in conversation, comprehension, and decision making that can result from virtual interaction, these teams have a lot to contend with in order to successfully operate,” she says.
Kurtzberg is not alone in her thinking. Becky Supiano, in the Journal of Higher Education writes, “What is it, exactly, that’s so depleting about interacting with a grid of faces on video chat? Heavy users and experts in psychology and communication point to a number of factors: The body language and other cues that we expect but can’t access; the way we monitor our own appearance; the stimulation of staring into faces at close range; the inability to take a break, move, or change our surroundings”
“That’s not natural to us,” writes to Manju Jiang of the BBC. “If we are with several people online at the same time, we are simultaneously processing visual cues from all of those people in a way we never have to do around a conference table.”
And when that extraneous data that we haven’t had to process in the physical world, suddenly over-stimulates us. “Each data point pushes us just a little bit farther away from the human-to-human connection that we all crave and appreciate,” says Steven Hickman, Psy.D., executive director of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.