Chances are, if you’re someone who began working at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, you’ve found yourself on a Zoom video call when you didn’t want to be on camera.
People have been voicing their frustrations about video conferences throughout the pandemic. Writer Roxane Gay tweeted, “I miss calls where I don’t need to show my face. It doesn’t need to be a Zoom. It just doesn’t.”
There are web tools like Zoom Escaper that allow users to self-sabotage their call, giving them the perfect excuse to leave their virtual meeting.
Melissa Dowd, a therapist at virtual mental health and primary care company PlushCare, says it’s normal to feel “added pressure” to be in front of the camera throughout the day.
“Unlike in-person meetings, where the focus might be on one speaker, during Zoom calls, everyone is looking at everyone,” she says. “This can be intimidating for some people.”
Amy Nicole Baker, assistant chair of psychology and sociology at the University of New Haven, says this blurring of work and home boundaries is a reason it’s important to disengage from video when you can.
“People need time to disengage from work,” she says. “It actually makes you more productive and actually improves worker well-being. The assumption that we’re working from home on Zoom and we’re available any time encroaches on that ability to disengage, and I think that may be part of the reason we’re seeing such Zoom fatigue.”
For women, the pressure to look put together during video calls can be greater.
“Women tend to be evaluated on their appearance in different ways than men are,” Baker says. “And one of those evaluations does center around norms for professional makeup in the workplace. That’s only heightened on being on Zoom.”
Dowd says staring at ourselves for hours can have a negative impact.
“We might find ourselves comparing how we look to others or constantly checking to see how we look versus focusing on the topic of the Zoom meeting,” she says. “This might lead to feelings of anxiety, jealousy or sadness.”
Plastic surgeons say they’ve seen an increase in requests for face and neck treatments during the pandemic — what’s been dubbed the “Zoom boom.”
Dr. Norman Rowe, a board-certified plastic surgeon, says he’s seen a “dramatic increase in men and women — of all ages, I might add — seeking to improve their Zoom appearance. Most patients specifically mentioned their Zoom appearance as the driving factor since they are basically looking in a mirror all day on video calls.”
Dr. Gabriel Chiu of Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Inc. thinks more availability in people’s schedules for recovery time has contributed to the increase he’s seen in requests for treatment. His patients’ most common Zoom-visible requests include treatments for bags or lines under the eyes, acne scars, wrinkle lines and large pores.
Baker says “it is difficult” to disengage from Zooming, especially depending on the nature of your workplace and position.
“Some people won’t have the autonomy to do that,” she says. “But for those of us that do have at least some autonomy... do set specific time to block that off in your calendar. Because it does matter the time to disconnect — especially for people who are introverted — to have a break from being on.”
For managers, Baker suggests asking, “Does this really need to be on Zoom? Do we really need to have a meeting about this?”
Dowd says managers can consider making camera use optional and ending calls early so people can have a break between meetings.
If you’re struggling with the blurred line of work and home, Dowd suggests setting boundaries.
“Using a virtual or blurred background, muting when not talking and scheduling Zoom calls around your personal schedule can be helpful ways to separate work and home spaces,” she says.
Anyone whose self-esteem is being affected might find it helpful to hide the self-view to focus more on the speakers, Dowd says.
So should you turn your camera off? It depends.
Baker says it’s important to think about the nature of the work you’re doing: “Does it require that you’re able to see each other or can you do the work you need to do and give other people that performance break?”
Dowd says it comes down to setting boundaries.
“Be intentional about your schedule for Zoom calls and if you plan to use your camera,” she says. “Take breaks. We often find ourselves in back-to-back Zoom meetings, which can be tiring and ultimately reduce our productivity because we might become burned out.”
Read more at usatoday.com