Zoom meetings, Zoom happy hours, Zoom networking events, Zoom reunions. Once the pandemic hit and most of us retreated to a more homebound life, video chat platforms became an integral part of our lives.
Even outside of work, “conference call style” became the norm for our usually in-person events. It became the lifeline to our relationships with those outside of our homes, the seemingly only way for us to stay connected, stay sane.
The benefits of having the ability to connect over platforms like Zoom and Skype are obvious. Many were able to keep working without stepping foot into their company office building. Large numbers of people were able to “hang out” with coworkers, “attend” family dinners, or “have a glass of wine” with friends despite closed restaurants and restricted flying.
But after the novelty of our new socially distant lives wore off, a new realization set in: Zoom anxiety.
A November 2020 study found that 73% of people said they had experienced Zoom anxiety in the past year.
This might sound surprising to some. After all, if you can more easily avoid – or at least limit – the hallmark stressors of work that cause anxiety (meetings, presentations, etc.), shouldn’t there be less anxiety?
Turns out that’s not the case. In fact, Google also reported a 180% increase in searches for the term “Zoom anxiety” over the past year.
So what gives?
Well for many, having to speak into a camera, even on their computer, feels uncomfortable and awkward. And it’s not uncommon for these people to experience the same physical symptoms of anxiety – trembling, sweating, stuttering – they might experience when in a high-pressure in-person event.
In fact, 48% said they found video calls to be even more stressful than a face-to-face meeting.
But what is it about these calls that makes them stressful?
Well for starters, there are a lot more unknowns. What if my internet goes out? I can’t tell what my boss thinks about the suggestion I gave. When is a good place for me to jump in without sounding like I’m interrupting? Oh crap, my dog is barking in the background again.
Transferring our meetings to an online environment means we have to learn new technologies, adjust our presentation styles, and determine our place in a new structure.
As for which tasks caused the most anxiety, it’s no surprise to find that 42% said presenting. What is surprising is that the tasks that are designed to be “stress-free” were actually causing anxiety. For instance, 15% said team catch-ups over Zoom were stressful.
So what’s to be done?
Some improvement can come from just giving yourself time to adjust and become more comfortable with the new format. This means taking a deep dive into the video software your company uses so you can become more familiar.
And just like in-person presentations, it stills pays off to practice and prepare before you speak in a video call if you have performance anxiety.
Last but not least, experts recommend addressing the anxiety you’re experiencing rather than ignoring it.
If the camera makes you uncomfortable, ask if you can have it turned off for at least some meetings. Communicate with your managers and coworkers if you’re unsure about a response or feedback you received in a call. And finally, give yourself time to recharge and walk away from the computer in between meetings.