Living through a global pandemic is anything but normal. Even for those fortunate and grateful to be healthy and able to work remotely, almost every part of your life has been altered in some significant way over a short period of time. That’s a lot of change to process.
When this all started, having the ability to connect with people via video was a lifeline that helped you gain your footing and create a sense of community. It gave you the option to see and talk with people you don’t live with, recreate team dynamics during the workday and set up some semblance of a social life during evenings and weekends.
But the longer you remain at home, the greater the likelihood that you might need to reevaluate how well your early coping mechanisms are continuing to meet your current needs.
Using video to remain connected can be both helpful and draining if not managed appropriately. There’s no one answer for everyone about how to best utilize it; you’ll have to do a little soul searching to figure out what works best for you. What you don’t want is to just keep accepting invites to any and all events that come your way without considering your unique personal and professional needs.
So before you pack your calendar with video appointments, use these three questions to check in with yourself. These questions will help you assess if your current levels of engagement with video continue to add to your productivity or if you should alter your habits going forward.
1. What do you most need to get from your video interactions?
Chances are that you’ve had many different types of video connections while working from home, from group presentations to team meetings to informal check-ins and happy hours. Each one may require more or less effort on your part and meet your needs differently.
For example, presenting for a group might help you tap into your ambitious spirit, giving you a needed opportunity to show your competence and expertise. Wanting validation that you are good at your job right now is not simply an ego-driven desire. There’s plenty of uncertainty in the economy and many people have legitimate fears about their livelihood going forward. If you are experiencing anxiety about your company’s future, you may find that you have a greater need to show your value during video meetings. Don’t feel bad about this, but simply take note that these kind of meetings are helpful to you.
You may also find that while team meetings are draining, one-on-one discussions provide you with an opportunity to connect more deeply with your boss or colleagues. If so, try to opt out of any group meetings that are not mandatory but maintain or increase your use of one-on-one video check-ins.
And don’t worry if online happy hours aren’t for you. There’s certainly social pressure to attend so you appear to be engaged and willing to support any of your colleagues that may be feeling isolated. But pay attention if you aren’t enjoying them so you can keep these kind of video gatherings in moderation. Adding yet another video interaction that feels like work during your downtime might not be the right answer for you.
If you aren’t getting much from the more social video meetings, choose to skip them some of the time, join late or leave early. If you are having a great time during these online happy hours, feel free to keep the virtual party going.
Either way, try to use video more often for the types of interactions that you actually prefer and gain strength or motivation from, and you’ll likely see a lift in your capacity to be more present and engaged online.
2. How much is too much?
Years from now, we may have studies that are able to provide insights on the optimal levels of video interaction in a day or week. For now, you’ll have to monitor yourself and continue to tweak your usage accordingly.
Throughout the week, spend a few minutes assessing how you feel about your video usage. Does one hour of video motivate you while three hours wears you out? At the end of a long meeting block or a video-heavy day, are you more agitated with your family or longing to collapse on your couch?
Exhaustion is a normal reaction that many people have after surpassing their threshold for video communications.
Video discussions are different than live, in-person meetings. On video, everyone is staring directly at a close-up of your face every time you speak and you are never off the screen even when you aren’t the main focus. During a video meeting, someone would clearly notice if you briefly started doing something else like check your phone to answer a text; there’s a lot more pressure to simply smile and look right into the camera the entire time. Basically, you are on display from the moment a video meeting starts until the very end.
During in-person meetings, people look away from you when others are talking. You get breaks where you can zone out a little or let someone else completely dominate the meeting.
For this reason, you shouldn’t assume that you can be on video as much as you were used to sitting in live meetings. There is such a thing as too much video in a day or week. You just have to decide how much that is for you.
Keep in mind that all your social video time counts into your daily usage as well. Pay attention to how you are feeling over a sustained period of time and make adjustments as needed.
3. Are you willing to take care of yourself?
If your answers to questions one and two have made you realize that you need to take a step back from video meetings, you owe it to yourself to work on reducing your screen time. That’s tricky right now as you certainly don’t want to ruffle any feathers at work. You may have also simply fallen into the pattern of putting everyone else’s needs ahead of your own during this crisis. It may feel like second nature to just join video meetings simply because someone else wants you there.
While that kindhearted mentality might have worked in the beginning, this has been going on for a long time, and will continue a bit longer. You can’t possibly continue to try to meet the expectations of others if you aren’t investing in your own well-being.
It may seem like a small gesture, but choosing to skip a few video events and calling in sometimes instead of being on camera is an act of self-care. With so many things out of your control, you should do your best to improve your own experience as much as you can. That happy hour will go on without you and you can always join next time. The team meeting will still be effective if you choose to take it as a call while walking outside instead of sitting in front of the camera.
If you only need to dial back your usage a little, you should feel empowered to do so. If you need to reduce your time on video significantly, you’ll want to have a conversation with your boss and explain how your video usage is impacting you. Good leaders are more sensitive than ever to the unique emotional and family needs that exist right now. Don’t shy away from having the discussion. Your capacity to help others and your overall output will benefit from a video schedule that better supports you and your needs.
This article was written by Kourtney Whitehead from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.