LISTENING AND AVOIDING BURN-OUT
So now we are all working from home and communicating online. If you haven’t used online communications before it can be a real challenge. Even if you have it’s important to consider the differences. In face- to- face conversations, remember those, we could the entire person and were able to read and comprehend everything the person was communicating. As you’ve experienced, online is different. We only see what the other person’s camera is showing us. At times it’s a close up of the person’s face or maybe a wide shot of the person and their background. When we look at our screens there is a tendency to look at the center of the screen since our eyes can take in all the information. We don’t have to scan or move our eyes to see all the information on the screen. This is the reason we don’t move much when we are online.
Just like in a face-to-face conversation, we must remember to move in order to communicate to the other person we are listening. Normal listening cues involve shaking your head in agreement, smiling in agreement, and titling your head to one side. When you demonstrate the listening cues, you should look directly into you camera to give the impression you are looking at the person speaking.
Since we see the entire screen all at once, there is a tendency to get bored. Giving listening cues helps us stay alert and focused during the online conversation. When we talk online, we should also look directly into our cameras and don’t forget to use the normal body language movements we use in face-to-face conversations to express our ideas. Being online doesn’t change the way we read each other when we communicate. Relaxing our bodies can help in communicating an effective message.
If you find yourself tense before an online session, do some relaxation exercises. Take deep breathes and hold them, then let out the air slowly a little at a time. You could also do a vocal exercise like saying all the vowels one at a time and in an exaggerated tone where you are moving your mouth in an exaggerated way. Also practice smiling to relax the muscles in in your face. Many performers do this exercise before a show.
Feeling more tired than you ever have been compared to when you were working face to face? Then you’re experiencing online burn out. Working online is more intense than working in a normal working environment. The energy it takes to focus online is more than the energy we expound in normal conditions. In regular working conditions, it is difficult to focus intensely more than 90 minutes when communicating or working on a project. The brain needs to refocus on something completely different in order to regain focus. After 90 minutes, productivity goes down and we make mistakes. It takes longer to do the same the work. In the office we often take breaks. We get a coffee or visit someone at their desk.
I would recommend focusing no more than an hour online then take a break for about 20 minutes from the meeting before coming back online.. This will give your brain a chance to focus on something completely different. Check your calendar, write emails, text, or listen to music. Anything that is different from the subject matter of the meeting online. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to focus.
The thing to remember is that the online environment is only a tool and shouldn’t change the way we communicate. Practice using the online platforms before you use them. Use your phone to record yourself so you can see when other people are perceiving. That will give you a chance to self-manage the way you act online in a video meeting.