The Scientific Reasons Why Working From Home Is So Exhausting

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busy woman working

Working from home challenges have become extremely common in the pandemic age — and they're downright tiresome.

You must have noticed that being on video conference calls all day is exhausting. There are good reasons for that backed by science. 

On the one hand, it's crucial — now, more than ever — to maintain the interpersonal connection and keep your video on while speaking to people. Video conferencing is as close as we can get to mimicking a normal work environment right now.

Still, continuous virtual meetings are more tiring than regular face-to-face interactions. 

Once you better understand the reasons behind your exhaustion in remote work, you can choose which meetings to keep your video on for and which ones to use voice only.

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Body language — or lack of it — creates challenges in working remotely.

According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s principle of communication, we absorb only seven percent words, 38 percent tonality, and 55 percent of body language when communicating.

We are subconsciously geared to gathering body-language signals, which can be difficult to glean over video and downright impossible to discern over the phone. 

In the case of a video call where only your coworker's face is visible, our physiology is desperately trying to capture more body language signals. Naturally, we are unable to accumulate these, leading to more energy expenditure and exhaustion.

If you were to switch to voice-only calls, you know not to look for body language and focus on just the words and tonality. Hence, communication and comprehension may be better.

As a suggestion, meetings with more than three or four people can be initiated with video mode and then switched to voice only, while for one-on-ones it might be better to turn on video.

We're all in survival mode.

Another factor to consider is that the uncertain environment we're all faced with has put us in survival mode.

Survival mode activates the limbic brain — the part of the brain involved in behavioral and emotional responses — and stocks up on adrenaline.

Imagine walking in the jungle, knowing a predator may spring any minute — it's the same environment for our nervous system, with varying degrees for different people, depending on their situation.

Essentially, it translates to being on high alert and continually having to look over your shoulder.

The negative messaging around everyone only makes things worse. Due to all these factors, you're expending extra energy without really being aware of it.

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Constantly pivoting in uncertainty drains energy.

Due to the uncertainty, you may also find yourself making multiple plans. If this happens, you go with Plan A, or else Plan B. If that happens, you go with Plan C, and parts of plan E. And so on and so forth.

This pattern is common for corporate leaders with high intelligence and planning abilities. While this is typically a strength, it can become a huge energy drain in present times.

Leaders must remain self-aware and take charge of the environment.

We are feeling less focused, drained, and unproductive. As leaders, it's essential to become self-aware of how your working methods in the new environment are impacting your energy levels.

It's a direct measure of your well-being and that of your team. Productivity is a direct consequence.

After focusing on self, communicate, and educate others on your team. This is the way for teams to truly bond.

Leaders that will not practice self-awareness will end up becoming too harsh on themselves and pushing even further, causing more malnourished energy levels.

That's the last thing you want to do right now.

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Bhavna Dalal is a master certified executive coach MCC ICF, speaker, and author of "Checkmate Office Politics" who helps people develop their leadership skills, such as executive presence, strategic thinking, influencing, and networking. To learn more about her work, visit her website or follow her on LinkedIn.

This article was originally published at Forbes India. Reprinted with permission from the author.