BENGALURU | MUMBAI: India Inc is suffering from a new ailment – and it is not what you think.

This one, termed #ZoomGloom #WebinarComa and #DeathByWebinar on social media, is causing fatigue, discomfort in the eye and neck, and a general sense of irritability. It is the result of taking part in unending video conferences.

Over the last three months, as Corporate India went into a lockdown and slowly unlocked in bits and pieces, this mental and physical condition has exploded into social memes and turned into daily lingo among employees. Some have even created songs dedicated to the syndrome.

A meme showing a shot from yesteryear Bollywood blockbuster Mughal-e-Azam has gone particularly viral.

In the meme, Prince Salim is seen waking up his beloved by saying, “Utho Anarkali, webinar khatam hua.” (Wake up, Anarkali. The webinar is over.)

The meme was shared recently by industrialist Anand Mahindra on microblogging site Twitter.

Other memes show individuals fainting from exhaustion onto their laptops or workstations after constantly staring at the screen.

“If I get one more invitation to a ‘webinar’ I might have a serious meltdown. Is it possible to petition for banishing this word from the dictionary even though it was a relatively recent entrant??,” Mahindra tweeted recently.

Akshay Mehrotra, co-founder and CEO of fintech lending startup EarlySalary, said he attends up to 15 team meetings a day.

“There is sitting fatigue. You have to focus a lot harder on the screen during meetings, and you can’t wear headphones after a while. It is a lot to take when some 14 people speak in a 25-minute meeting!” he said.

Ajeet Khurana, Venture Partner at Blockchain Founders Fund and former CEO of Zebpay, tweeted a verse by American poet Walt Whitman, in which the bard says how gazing at stars is far more interesting than a lecture about them.

“Earlier, it was attending events and conferences. Now, it is webinars. If you are still trying to figure out entrepreneurship through “tutorials,” here is: When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer by Walt Whitman. This guy figured it out over a century ago,” Khurana tweeted.

Lendingkart’s co-founder and CEO Harshvardhan Lunia bought a standing desk after developing neck and back strain from constantly doing video team meetings on his laptop. “It does give mental and physical fatigue. Team meetings are not easy, and the internet connection is not always great,” Lunia said.

In some cases, the inquiries about one’s well-being expressed every day also feel overdone.

Kavitha G, a marketing manager at an advertising firm in Chennai, said, “The one thing I dislike about these video calls is the fact that it is every day, and each day people ask how I am… I mean, nothing much has changed in 24 hours!”

The two-hour-long video calls conducted by the management with heads of various units can be unforgiving when there are thirteen team leads providing updates, she added.

“It is a very real challenge for workplaces too – finding that balance and the sweet spot are always work in progress. We’re taking a break from events and trainings for a while, so we all can get some rest and recharge,” said Nehaa Chaudhari, Partner and Director (Policy) at Ikigai Law.

Psychologist Ishita Pateria believes that a lot more physical and mental effort goes into attending a video meeting than an in-person meeting, and employees will have to figure out how to manage the amount of time they spend on these.

“Initially, people overdid it, a lot more than they could take,” said Pateria. “We will have to organize video calls, maybe put a cap on the time or the number of meetings depending on how much we can handle.”


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