The past two months have seen a majority of knowledge workers working from home, on Zoom or similar technologies.
Many commentators suggest this will be the new normal — now that people have a (forced) experience of telecommuting, they will no longer want to go into an office.
But widespread anecdotal evidence suggests that “Zooming” most of the day for work, and in the evening socially, is taking a subtle toll on people.
Are Zoom and other virtual collaborative tools tiring us out?
BBC Worklife last month spoke to Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead who explores sustainable learning and development in the workplace, and Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University who studies workplace well-being and teamwork effectiveness.
The interview outlines several reasons video calls are inherently more stressful than personal interactions:
1. Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat.
We need to work harder to process cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice and body language.
Paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy.
2. Technical issues create stress in the users, anything from a person talking while muted to a weak Wi-Fi signal.
3. While silence creates a natural rhythm in real-life conversation, it can make people anxious or uncomfortable on a video call.
One 2014 study by German academics showed that delays on phone or conferencing systems shaped our views of people negatively. Even a delay of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the responder as less friendly or focused.
4. You know everyone is looking at you during a video conference, making you feel like you are on stage and adding the social pressure to perform.
That can be nerve-racking and adds more stress.
The Zoom workplace is ultimately a positive, not a negative, enabling productivity from home unimaginable in previous generations.
However, the idea that people will prefer working on it in the longer term — when they have the choice of interacting in person — is questionable.
Isaac Cheifetz, a Twin Cities executive recruiter and strategic résumé consultant, can be reached through catalytic1.com.