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Why are Zoom meetings so much more exhausting than IRL ones?

Written by
Kate Lloyd

Welcome to our series where, each week, we’ll get experts to find solutions to your lockdown problems. Send yours to and we’ll try to get you an answer. In this instalment: why video conferencing is hell. 

Kiera from Clapton says:

‘I’m spending a lot of time on group Zoom calls for work and to hang out with friends, but I find when they’re done I'm exhausted. They sap the energy out of me. Especially when I’m in meetings with some of the men in my office. They’ll interrupt me or talk extensively until the meeting ends and it’s even harder to get a word in over them on Zoom than it is in real life. Why is video-calling so much more tiring? How can I make it work for me? Help!’ 

Clinical psychologist Anna Mandeville says: 

In face-to-face meetings we unconsciously rely on our all our senses and particularly nonverbal communication. For example, body posture may convey who has “power” in the group or how people sit or move may give us an indication of who is likely to speak next. In person, it’s easier to pick up on the feelings or “temperature” of a meeting. In video conferencing, these subtle perceptions are harder to grasp and poor sound or picture quality interfere further. Therefore, we and our senses have to work much harder to go with the flow.

Using good-quality headphones can help overcome less than perfect sound quality and reduce the load for one of the senses. Appointing a chair who sets up and enacts ground rules for the call can also be helpful. This can include being asked to raise a hand before speaking. People may think this gets in the way but it can have the beneficial effect of slowing things down and make sure everyone gets heard, rather than only those who shout the loudest.’ 

Read more in this series:

Am I in a power struggle with my cat?

Why am I having such vivid dreams in lockdown?

Why do I have the attention span of a goldfish?

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