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Health and wellbeing: Zooming in on fatigue

Health and wellbeing: Zooming in on fatigue

By Law Institute Journal

COVID-19 Health Wellbeing 

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Feeling physically and mentally depleted as a result of screen fatigue is not uncommon. There are strategies to help manage working remotely.

Tips
  • Computer Vision Syndrome can be managed with the 20-20-20 strategy, which suggests that for every 20 minutes of screen use, users should focus on a point 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • The JCV has a wide-ranging repository of COVID-19 related resources on its website.
  • Vision Australia’s website offers computer tips and tricks for an optimally set up work area.

Screen fatigue seems to be a common malady, often spoken about in these days of working remotely. 

Since mid-March, helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 with social distancing has seen many migrate to home offices. And locked down or not, it looks like that’s where we will be working for the foreseeable future.

As a result, we are all now communicating via Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams and Skype.

For legal practitioners, it’s not just meetings that are conducted remotely, it’s filing court documents, and making appearances too. New court protocols have been introduced and practitioners need to be familiar with policies on court websites. 

The many, varied user options that come with audio and videoconferencing are undoubtedly useful but they bring a layer of complexity – as well as psychological tension – to meetings. There’s mute, screen sharing, file sharing, white boarding, break out rooms, virtual hand-raising, time restrictions, links, virtual backgrounds, polling, uploading, recording, transcripts, security protections, privacy settings, permission settings, calendar syncing, the options are endless. There’s a safe driving mode, there’s even an option to fix your appearance.

Then there's the possibility of technical glitches causing unfocused or frozen pictures and distorted or no sound. Unstable internet connections can cause audio delays. Video can unexpectedly drop out.

Between videoconferencing and chats, the daily stream of emails and Skype phone calls – all now used instead of much missed face to face conversations – and otherwise working online, it is little wonder many of us are experiencing screen fatigue. Feeling physically and mentally depleted as a result is not uncommon.

The Judicial College of Victoria (JCV) has gathered an excellent and wide-ranging repository of COVID-19 related resources on its website including material on screen fatigue summarised here as issues associated with virtual communication, strategies to help manage working remotely and resources for further reading.

Issues 

  • Virtual communication requires the brain to be hyper-focused on verbal cues due to the loss of non-verbal cues.
  • Silence in virtual communication also increases anxiety about the interaction.
  • We also experience heightened pressure to perform as we feel we are being watched more than during face to face communication.
  • The use of technology can also affect our eyes, described as Computer Vision Syndrome. This contributes to fatigue associated with technology.

Strategies

Computer Vision Syndrome can be managed with the 20-20-20 strategy, which suggests that for every 20 minutes of screen use, users should focus on a point 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

A sector with a longer history of managing screen fatigue is air traffic control. The industry standards recommend workers do not have a period of two hours without a break of at least 30 minutes. This can be extended on a pro-rata basis (15 minutes for every hour worked) if the workload pressures demand it.

Building transitions into virtual communication to facilitate regular breaks helps manage fatigue. 

Resources 

JCV articles

“The reason Zoom calls drain your energy” – an article explaining the reasons why virtual communications increases fatigue and suggests strategies for management.

“The Effects of Digitalization on Human Energy and Fatigue” – an academic literature review on the most recent research around the impact of technology on fatigue. 

“Computer Vision Syndrome”– an outline of the causes, treatments, and strategies for management of computer vision syndrome.

“Regulation of Work Hours for Air Traffic Controllers” – an example of measures taken by another sector for the management of screen fatigue.

For issues specifically related to vision, Vision Australia’s website offers computer tips and tricks for an optimally set up work area. It recommends using a desk lamp, taking regular breaks, reducing glare by closing curtains or blinds but not so all light is eliminated in the room, and positioning the computer monitor at eye level. Vision Australia has an adaptive technology help desk – 1300 84 7476, visionaustralia.org. ■


Issues, strategies and resources used with kind permission of the Judicial College of Victoria judicialcollege@vic.edu.au.


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