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Overcoming the digital fatigue of COVID-19

One of the main issues that enterprises have to deal with during the COVID-19 pandemic is the digital fatigue that most employees face at this time. Enterprises have approached this pandemic with caution and many workplaces announced work from home plans for their employees even before the government made an official announcement. Most of the large organisations are still working during the lockdown and the employees have been given the freedom to work from home. This method of contactless business continuity has given rise to ‘digital fatigue’ among the employees.


Teams are now kept in contact with each other through video calling. These video calls can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours depending on the importance of the matters discussed. In addition to this, many parents have the additional responsibility of managing the learning process of their children which has also become digital. Physically in addition to our habits of TV watching, reading, and mobile phone engagements these video conferences are an additional burden to our eyes causing distress.


Comparatively in the pre-COVID days our lives were segmented between office and home. This helped us to segregate work life and personal life and allocate time for ourselves. As work from home has become the norm now, the clear distinction between work life and personal life is erased. Employees tend to work for longer hours now as personal matters blend during the business hours in the day. Adding to this, social isolation has reduced our personal interaction time with friends. This has given rise to a ‘caged’ feeling for many as they are caught in the cycle of office work and house work all through the week. A frustrated employee when thpart in long duration video calls will have a negative impact on their mental health. While video chats are a good means of checking the wellbeing of someone in isolation, psychologists say seeing ourselves constantly on the screen can have a tiring effect. Why is it so?


It is because of the raised awareness than usual, where we make additional self-presentational efforts than we do in face to face interactions in the real world. Moreover, in larger meetings we are unable to give attention to the social cues of other people which makes us to give extra attention to the on screen behaviour and communication of the others which can bring a ‘mental fatigue’ to our minds over time. So, is there anything the workplaces can do to keep the mental wellbeing of their employees?


Some activities that can reduce the fatigue experienced by the employees are:


  1. Instead of talking about work throughout the call, some tips on mental health and self care can be discussed.
  2. Periodic breaks in between when longer calls are scheduled.
  3. Inclusion of small fun activities at the beginning or end of the call to lighten the mood.
  4. Turn off the option to see yourself in the call.
  5. Try to include a lesser number of people in the calls. Lesser people in the meeting will be less demanding and less taxing. 
  6. Try to convert video calls to emails or phone calls if possible.
  7. Large meetings can sometimes be chaotic. Assign roles to the participants and allocate appropriate time for activities.
  8. Empathize with the employees and acknowledge their emotions. 


Self care practices are also helpful in tackling digital fatigue. Prioritising our own health plays a significant role in maintaining our physical and mental health during these stressful times. Statistics show that usage of remote communication systems like Skype and Zoom have increased 200%-300% over the last few months as businesses are struggling to maintain business continuity. While nearly 50-75% of the staff have got back to work again, the fear about the pandemic still remains. However, we should remember that humans are social animals and human interaction is the key to good mental health. Following precautionary habits and slowly getting back to our normal routine in the forthcoming month will certainly help to maintain our good mental health. 


Overcoming the digital fatigue of COVID-19
11 Sep 2020