Why limiting video calls should be part of every business’ mental health policy

In today’s business landscape, the emergence of Shopify’s groundbreaking cost calculator has prompted a fresh perspective on the true impact of unproductive meetings.

The widely held notion that all meetings inherently contribute value and productivity is undergoing a profound reevaluation. This pivotal moment invites us to delve deeper into the genuine benefits that meetings can bring.

As businesses increasingly rely on video calls to overcome limited physical meeting spaces, remote work arrangements, and resource limitations, unnecessary meetings can have far-reaching consequences. These consequences extend beyond financial considerations, impacting mental well-being and overall productivity.

Long video calls can lead to stress and fatigue

Frequent and lengthy video calls can lead to heightened cognitive load, eye strain, stress, anxiety, fatigue, and decreased creativity and productivity – sometimes known as Zoom fatigue.

A study from 2023 supports that excessive video calls cause stress and fatigue, while a 2022 study found that high levels of video meetings increased anxiety, emotional exhaustion, and depressive symptoms. A wealth of pandemic studies provides evidence of the physical and mental strain that video communication puts on individuals.

To address these challenges, it’s important to recognise the underlying causes. Excessive close-up eye contact during video calls leads to eye strain and fatigue. Mirror anxiety, arising from constantly observing yourself, adds an additional cognitive burden.

Limited mobility to stay within the camera frame can result in physical discomfort and confinement. Moreover, the higher cognitive load involved in interpreting nonverbal cues in a video setting contributes to mental exhaustion.

Women are more susceptible to the adverse effects of video meetings

Studies also indicate that women are more susceptible to the adverse effects of video meetings. A 2021 Stanford report, revealed that women experience greater video fatigue due to heightened self-viewing, as well as cognitive strain caused by difficulty picking up on subtle nonverbal cues, to which women are usually more attuned to.

Addressing these gender-specific impacts is crucial, and strategies should prioritise the well-being of all employees.

Understanding the pressing nature of this matter, BE YELLOW, our upcoming remote PR and marketing agency, has developed an all-encompassing remote-working and mental health policy. A component of this policy is our dedication to reducing unnecessary video meetings, thereby nurturing enhanced mental and physical well-being, boosting productivity, and fostering elevated job satisfaction.

Based on extensive business experience, I have witnessed the detrimental effects of an inundation of meetings and video calls. While virtual connectivity offers advantages, the convenience and ease of video meetings can result in overburdened schedules when alternative forms of communication could be more approriate.

Five recommendations for eliminating unnecessary video meetings

To navigate excessive and redundant video meetings, consider the following five recommendations.

1) Promote effective communication and establish boundaries

Actively listen to employee concerns, developing protocols and boundaries, such as turning off self-view. Foster open communication with clients and associates to understand the impact of unwarranted meetings on productivity and well-being.

2) Craft clear meeting guidelines

Define specific criteria for necessary video meetings, reducing unproductive gatherings. Encourage the use of alternative communication channels like email, instant messaging, or voice notes to streamline communication.

3) Embrace mindful scheduling and duration

Set realistic and strictly enforced timeframes for video meetings to prevent fatigue and enhance efficiency. Encourage a mindful approach to scheduling, providing employees with sufficient break time and intervals for recovery. Consider implementing designated “no-call days” to promote rejuvenation.

4) Leverage technology for effective communication

Use collaboration tools and project management platforms to streamline workflow and minimise the need for excessive video meetings. Empower employees to choose the most suitable communication method based on complexity, urgency, efficiency, and personal preferences.

5) Provide training and support

Offer comprehensive training and resources to equip employees with skills for effective video meetings. Supplement these efforts with mental health support and resources to address specific challenges associated with video call fatigue.

It’s important to eliminate unnecessary meetings if you can

In conclusion, at BE YELLOW we believe it’s essential for organisations to adopt policies that minimise the detrimental effects of unnecessary meetings.

By carefully considering available tools and embracing an empathetic approach that values employee needs and concerns, we can all cultivate a work environment that promotes productivity, fulfilment, and employee well-being.

Hayley Hayley Knight is a PR and marketing professional, with over 10 years of experience. She is the co- founder of Be Yellow, and former Deputy Head of PR at Pride in London.

Her accolades include Elle UK’s 23 under 30 female entrepreneurs and Amor magazine 30 under 30, as well as being listed as number 6 in TechRound’s top 100 PR agencies.