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Will video fatigue drive users back to voice calls?

The strain of being on camera all day is beginning to make its mark. Companies are reevaluating the role telephony may play as workers return to the office.

Zoom, like Google before it, became a verb in 2020, and while Zoom the company has become a dominant video conferencing player in the workplace, other video vendors have also seen their names morphed into action words. Complexity and cost have long hampered the use of video, but both of those hurdles went away in 2020. When UX held up in the face of massive uptake, video quickly became the de facto tool of choice for communicating during the pandemic.

Ease of use is the key attribute for any form of new technology, and video became even more compelling as a way to reduce the isolation that came with working from home and social distancing. Until the pandemic passes and people can go back to the office, video is going to be the next-best proxy for staying in touch. Add to this the novelty of making every call a video call, and it's easy to see why adoption and usage exploded during 2020.

But… and there is always a but

All novelties wear off, though, and video fatigue is real. As the video habit becomes normalized, the routine of endless calls and meetings at work somehow gets extended to another round of this at night with friends and family. While video during a meeting might be justified, its immersive nature catches up as the day wears on. Most people can manage spending a few hours each day on phone calls without a problem, but we are all susceptible to fatigue when spending that much time on video calls.

While ease of use with video is here to stay, vendors have to make money, and at some point, cost will lead some companies to curtail their use of video. Until that occurs, however, video and telephony will be equally attractive as a communication channel. The main difference is that fatigue is much more of a factor for video. The use case for telephony in real-time communications (RTC) is always valid. That's not the same case for video.

Telephony gaining popularity

As video's novelty wears off and as weariness becomes a consideration, workers are realizing that visual representation isn't necessary for every call and meeting. As a result, the pendulum is swinging back to telephony.

Video is not about to fade away, but workers are taking a more measured approach now. And that's a good thing. While it's great to have options for RTC, productivity is an important consideration; video fatigue is playing more of a role in how these tools are being used.

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