By Siobhan Moore 1st Year Health Management Intern Publication date: 2 Dec 2021 Coming into the internship from the controlled chaos of a metropolitan emergency department, I was thrilled to leave shift work behind. I was finally joining the land of the Monday-to-Friday, the “after work drinks” and the corporate clothes that I’d been missing for much of my career. I couldn’t wait to be able to properly manage my own time, wear nail polish! and simply to know that on any upcoming Saturday and Sunday, I wouldn’t need to check my roster to know that I was free. This placement I am with the Department of Health. Aside from one single day visiting the office to get my security pass and meet some colleagues, I have been working from home for five months. Working from home has brought with it many positives – more time to sit and enjoy breakfast each morning, to walk the dog at lunchtime, to eat lunch out of a proper bowl rather than Tupperware, to wear my comfy leggings and slippers each day. But I’ve also found it tiring, in ways that are unexpected to someone used to working in a high-intensity clinical environment. How can I say that it is tiring sitting at a desk each day compared to the physical demands of a busy ED shift? Yet somehow it is! I’ve tried to understand this, and in doing so, find ways to cope, and even thrive while working from home. Why is working online so tiring? Zoom, Teams and other software has been essential for productivity and interaction and yet the term ‘zoom fatigue’ has emerged following the onset of the pandemic. The psychological consequences of spending hours per day on videoconferencing platforms or in virtual meetings has been examined, and some theories have emerged. Why are we left so tired after a day on zoom? Body language: In regular face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication is quite natural, and each of us naturally makes and interprets gestures and nonverbal cues subconsciously. In video chats, we have to work harder to send and receive signals. Bad wi-fi, or even a short delay can be exhausting, as your flow of thoughts or communication is repeatedly broken. Excessive eye contact: In a normal meeting, people vary their gaze. They may look at the presenter, around the room, or down at a notepad. On video calls, everyone is looking at everyone all of the time. This amount of eye contact is intense and unnatural. Long periods of eye contact is usually reserved for those with whom you have a close or intimate relationships, and now this has become the way we communicate with colleagues, acquaintances or sometimes strangers. The mirror effect: Videoconferencing platforms have meant that we are seeing our reflection at a frequency and duration that hasn’t existed before (except perhaps for those working in dance halls and gyms!). Seeing yourself constantly during video calls unnatural. You may be inclined to become more critical, and this can be taxing and stressful. *** While every online blogger and workplace wellness advisor has been sharing tips on how to cope while working from home, the following are the ones I’ve managed to maintain. Routine: Every morning I’m awoken by my dog, who needs breakfast and a walk. This morning routine which gets me up and moving, has been really helpful in creating separation between “home” and the start of the workday. The morning walk routine has also meant that I have kept my steps up. I hadn’t realised how much incidental exercise I was adding during the commute to work. Many of my walking trips are lost when working from home so it was important to try to keep moving. Connection: This is one of the most important things we need for a fulfilling work life – and working from home made this tough. The team I am in is very good at fostering connection through informal team chats over Teams, completing the daily quiz, or a Friday afternoon game of online Pictionary. This internship is about the people we meet, and the networks we can create, so these casual times to connect are vital in an otherwise disconnected year. Focus: Previously, in the emergency department, I had no option but to focus while at work. People’s lives quite literally depended on it. Working on less tangible, longer term projects has required a different sort of discipline. I’ve found it useful to do a short mindfulness exercise each morning which helps me to clear away any of the lockdown “brain fog” and focus on my work. I also made great use of the pomodoro technique and sometimes had to hide my phone away to avoid distractions. I became better at avoiding the temptation to multitask during Zoom or Teams calls. It was easy to fall into the trap of trying to do a quick read of an email that had popped up, but for even the sharpest mind, it is near impossible to properly focus on two things at once. By splitting attention, you don’t get the most out of the meeting or webinar, and you don’t get the most out of whichever other task you are trying to achieve. *** The widespread move to working from home will bring with it many wonderful opportunities. I hope to work in an environment one day where a mix of onsite and at home are accepted and embraced, and the tips that have emerged during this time will help us to remain productive health service managers in time to come. Reading: Bailenson JN. Nonverbal Overload: A Theoretical Argument for the Causes of Zoom Fatigue. Technol Mind, Behav [Internet]. 2021 Feb 23 [cited 2021 Sep 20];2(1). Available from: https://tmb.apaopen.org/pub/nonverbal-overload/release/2 Views are those of the individual authors and not those of ACHSM or management interns’ host organisations or employers.