Preventing Online Burnout

Preventing Online Burnout

COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives beyond recognition, the forced social isolation, working from home or “hybrid working” meant that we had to swing into a world of online meetings. It is estimated that currently 300 million people are using zoom every day and whilst working from home has been a sought after benefit for many, the lack of physical communication has led to a form of video conferencing burnout.

Why is this happening?

Now that a vast majority of workers have evolved into remote positions and everything from medical appointments to business meetings have gone online, there are increasing reports of fatigue related to screen time. In part, this could be due to complete physical inactivity as  we sit at our desk looking at the screen for an extended amount of time and straining our eyes without rest. There is no walking around the office, rush to get to the train, bus or car to get home, no change of environment either.

More alarming issue however is the sense of social isolation and inability to communicate with colleagues, clients and even strangers. How lovely is it to compliment someone on how radiant they look or express your dissatisfaction about the way something was done without having to email something unpleasant or smile at a kind stranger at the bus stop or in the coffee shop round the corner from your office. Unfortunately, all this is lost whilst sitting in front of the computer.

70- 80% of our communication during work is nonverbal, so when in an online meetings there is often difficulty reading facial expression and body language, communication becomes that much more cumbersome as everything has to be verbalised by all present.  It is unsurprising that we feel less connected to others and the meeting that would have taken 30 minutes would now be much longer and tough.  We then have the non-human factors which are tiresome and frustrating that cannot be ignored. Anyone have the instinct to throw the laptop out the window when the screen is frozen  mid-sentence or when you are making the most ridiculous face at the camera (may have been hilarious if you weren’t as frustrated) or when you utter the most important statement and the person on the other end says they did not hear a word due to audio failure. The combination of these factors alongside poor wifi signals have created challenging barriers to overcome.  

So what can we do to prevent burnout?

Give yourself a break

Like all forms of social communication, it is important for us to regularly take breaks from our screens. Most of us will be flicking between our laptops, computers, phones and tablets throughout the day and so it is essential to get outside when we can and give our eyes and minds time to wind down.

Make yourself comfortable

Making sure that your immediate environment is suited to your schedule is an absolute must. 
  • Take a few moments to look at your desk and ensure that your camera is at the right height and angle so you are not straining.  
  • Consider your posture- is your chair comfortable, are your feet touching the floor, are you straining your wrists to type, 
  • Is the lighting good enough for you not to strain your eyes? 
These are all important aspects of reducing burnout and ensuring you can safely and comfortably complete your day-to-day tasks.

Communicate in different ways

Although it is difficult at the moment to not take part in some form of video conference, remember to take time to communicate in a variety of ways. 
  • If you find that you are struggling with your screen, maybe try taking a few phone calls instead or send a well crafted email. 
  • Most importantly however, if you can, take the opportunity to speak to people face to face. This could be family in your social bubble or meeting friends outdoors.
When it comes to video conferencing and burnout, we think that the key ingredient is a balance. Remember to make things as comfortable for yourself as you can, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to take a break!
Author: Dr Meetu Singh

Dr Singh is the consultant psychiatrist with a special interest in neuropsychiatry.  Having seen and treated hundreds of patients with ADHD, in London and Birmingham and with masters in Neuropsychiatry, she is well known as an expert in this field. 


Contact Dr Singh:
Website: 020 39277699