A global pandemic is bound to increase levels of stress and agitation, especially among individuals who were already battling mental health conditions like OCD or anxiety.
However, some of the COVID pandemic’s consequences were unforeseeable, such as the meteoric rise in video calling and virtual conferencing.
Many employees now spend an inordinate proportion of each working week staring into webcams.
Despite enabling essential communication to continue during lockdowns, video calling is unnatural and impersonal.
It’s hard not to feel anxious when addressing a camera, especially if the people you’re talking to are represented by a still photo or simply a name.
The lack of non-verbal communication in video conferencing makes such interactions unnaturally stress-inducing.
Indeed, a recent survey suggests three quarters of people have experienced Zoom anxiety over the last year. And yes, other video conferencing platforms are available.
Fortunately, there are some easy tips for overcoming Zoom anxiety, which should reduce – if not eliminate – the stresses of talking to people through a webcam rather than in person.
It’s well documented that video calls are more tiring than phone calls, but the resultant anxiety is a less widely understood phenomenon.
One of the biggest triggers is a fear of connection issues, so test your webcam and microphone before joining or hosting a meeting to ensure both are working properly.
Turn off other programs and apps on whichever device you’re using, to prevent pings and beeps distracting you mid-call.
Similarly, set mobile phones to mute, stick the house phone in a drawer, and pin a sign to the front door asking people not to ring the bell. (Just remember to take it off later.)
If your connection is slow, consider disabling web-enabled hardware around the home for the duration of any calls, to reduce the risk of buffering, pixellation or a dropped connection.
Actors often tackle stage fright by rehearsing, and you can build confidence in a similar way.
Organise dry-run practice calls with friends or relatives, asking their honest advice on whether you could do anything to seem more polished or confident on-camera.
Many people are bags of nerves but hide it quite successfully, so don’t assume everyone else is feeling more comfortable with this unnatural reality than you are.
Even having a dynamic background might make you feel more comfortable. Avoid flickering artificial filters, and instead angle webcams towards bookcases or interesting furnishings/artworks.
Encourage other people to activate their webcams so you have at least some body language cues to feed on, and don’t be disheartened if a joke is met by silence.
Everyone on the call could be smiling, chuckling to themselves, or trying not to laugh because they feel anxious about behaving unprofessionally. You’re all in the same virtual boat.
Finally, dressing professionally boosts confidence. Showering and wearing work clothes may help with overcoming Zoom anxiety, even if you’re not leaving the house that day.