If you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t have had to use video calls at all in your day to day life, that is until the pandemic started. Suddenly everything had to be done by video chat, which filled me with dread as I have a social anxiety disorder. My placement interview, my placement client hours, my volunteer work, and my hospital appointments all suddenly had to be done by video chat. I was filled to the brim with Zoom meeting anxiety. But I figured out a way to help myself manage that anxiety and I’m going to share that with you.
Buffalo 7, a presentation design agency, conducted a study into this very topic, asking over 2,000 home workers about what they thought about Zoom meeting anxiety. According to Buffalo 7‘s study, they found that 73% of the people they asked had suffered from Zoom meeting anxiety, which is a surprisingly big number. I guess most people weren’t used to doing video chats before the pandemic, especially for work and from home.
What Is Zoom And Video Chatting?
In case you’re unaware, which isn’t very likely after a year in a pandemic, video calls are where you call someone, accept your camera is also turned on so you can see each other while you talk. Originally, the big video chat platform was Skype, but for some reason, come the pandemic, it all became about Zoom, hence Zoom meeting anxiety as the title of this article. There are other video chatting and conference calling platforms other than Zoom, such as Microsoft Team and Google Meet, both of which I’ve used.
While I was finishing my dissertation I had to use Microsoft Team to talk to my supervisor and my partner has to use this platform for work meetings. Whereas, for my volunteer work I have to use Google Meet. This was largely due to the privacy and security issues that came out when Zoom became the popular video chat and conferencing platform. However, those early privacy and security concerns with Zoom are now meant to have been resolved.
What Is Zoom Meeting Anxiety?
Zoom meeting anxiety comes in three main flavours if you ask me, housebarrassment (you’ll know this one if you’re a Brit thanks to the adverts), your appearance and behaviours, and the uncomfortableness of the situation (shyness and social anxiety).
Although this started out mainly as an advertising campaign by Wickes, a lot of people will understand the uneasy feeling of letting people, especially coworkers, seeing into your home. If you’re like me and live entirely in a single room, then it’s hard to find an angle that’s tidy or professional, let alone both. For example, right now if I turned my webcam on you’d be able to see my Space Invader curtains and my unmade bed.
If you don’t have a lot of options for where you can have your video chat meetings, then you’re going to feel anxious about it. Fortunately, some platforms allow you to change or blur your background, which can help with managing your Zoom meeting anxiety if housebarrassment is an issue.
Appearance and behaviour
I’ve always had an issue with my appearance due to relentless bullying during my childhood. As a result, I don’t take photo’s of myself and rarely appear in other people’s photos. So to sit there and have to see a video stream of my self among the video bank of participants isn’t a comfortable situation. Then, on top of that, some people will also be worried about what they’re wearing and how they’re behaving on camera. It’s hard to focus when that small live video of yourself is in your eyesight because you want to make sure you look ok and don’t appear to be doing anything considered weird. At the best of times, you don’t know what you should do with your hands and other body languages, on Zoom it just feels amplified for some reason.
According to Buffalo 7, video calls require more focus than regular calls or face-to-face interactions. This claim by Buffalo 7 might explain my preference for meeting face-to-face than talking on the phone or video chatting, even though I have agoraphobia as well as a social anxiety disorder.
Luckily, because home broadband isn’t as good as business broadband, more often than not, you can get away with having your video and mic turned off to avoid quality issues for the main person(s) talking, which is handly in a meeting to avoid that Zoom meeting anxiety.
Unfortunately, for some reason, women are still expected to hold themselves to a higher standard of beauty when we’re all working from home and the hairdressers are closed (Vox). Why we can’t all be allowed to just wear sweatpants and look like we’re working from home, because we are, is beyond me.
If you have social anxiety then that little video of you is going to be distracting and will attract your gaze. Even when you’re doing a video chat session where it’s just two of you, I’ll imagine, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be having thoughts like, “do I maintain eye contact with the video of their eyes or the webcam camera?” and these thoughts will never go away.
Buffalo 7 also found several other factors that could influence Zoom meeting anxiety, which was:
- Having to be your own IT guy when tech/audio problems arise.
- Difficulties with reading the body language of the people on the video chat.
- Difficulties with being heard as the technology priorities the loudest spoken person’s mic.
- Having no time to prepare before you’re forced into a video chat.
- Getting talked over.
- Being lost in the crowd and having too many people to focus on in the big online meeting.
- Having to deal with the screen-sharing when giving presentations and presenting documents.
The Importance Of Overcoming Your Zoom Meeting Anxiety
During the pandemic, it has become hard to socialise with the people we care about and the people we can tolerate (you know you miss the annoying work friends too). Humans are social creatures and our mental health can deteriorate without social interaction, which is why a lot of people have struggled with the isolation that has come with the pandemic lockdowns. Messaging and normal phones calls are fine and can help deal with the social isolation caused by the pandemic, but group video calls add that extra something to make it feel more like a social gathering, it’s also easier to play games in a group video chat meetup.
Graded exposure is the perfect tool for managing social anxiety and Zoom meeting anxiety. It was like graded exposure, a CBT method, was created specifically for this moment during our pandemic woes by allowing you to create a plan to overcome anxiety in situations like these. Simply put, graded exposure is like doing dry runs of conditions that increase in anxiety severity that you work through until the anxiety goes away. Thus, you create several steps going from the least anxiety-inducing situation to the most, starting from the least and working your way up the steps until you complete the last and most challenging one.
For example, for Zoom meeting anxiety you could start by having video calls with your parents or partner to get used to that experience of video chatting with your loved ones. You could mix this up by doing this step by using different lengths of time to help you get used to it. You could start off having video chats with your partner for five minutes at a time and work your way up to 30 minutes.
The next step could be to arrange Zoom calls with your close friends, again with increasing lengths of time you’ll be having the video calls. Then the step after that could be to set up Zoom calls with people you’ve not talked to in a while, like old schools friends or people you’ve not seen or spoken to in the last year or so.
Following a plan like briefly discussed above will reduce anxiety symptoms as you become comfortable with having Zoom sessions. Thus, working through steps like these will allow you to dominate your Zoom meeting anxiety and might even completely extinguish that anxiety altogether. The same method can also be applied to public speaking or giving a presentation. The gradual increase in exposure to a source of anxiety is the key to this method and can be applied to most anxiety-inducing situations, not just in the workplace.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of Zoom meeting anxiety in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget to bookmark my site and if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications of new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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