The coronavirus pandemic forced offices to close and meetings to move online, giving rise to a new phenomenon called “Zoom fatigue.”
Named after the popular video chat platform, the term describes the exhaustion that comes with participating in video conferences, be it on Zoom, Google Meet, or another application.
A researcher at Stanford University examined this idea to identify reasons that may cause people to become exhausted while simply sitting in front of a computer.
Professor Jeremy Bailenson found that excessive eye contact, a decrease in mobility, video chats increase cognitive load and constant looking at yourself leads to “Zoom fatigue.”
However, the expert has also provided solutions to each problem to help employees unwind while video chatting for hours at least five days a week.
A Stanford University researcher recently examined this idea to determine the reasons that can cause people to become exhausted while simply sitting in front of a computer
Bailenson emphasized that his point is not to disparage any particular video conferencing platform – he appreciates and regularly uses tools like Zoom.
However, he wants to highlight how taxing current implementations of video conferencing technologies are and suggest interface changes, many of which are easy to implement.
“Video conferencing is a good thing for long-distance communication, but just think about the medium – just because you can use video doesn’t mean you have to,” Bailenson said.
The first reason stated was that excessive eye contact at close range was very intense.
Video conferencing requires users to stare at the screen for hours every day, which can be tiring.
In in-person meetings, the audience usually only looks at the single person speaking, but when events are held online, we tend to stare at everyone in the chat room and it seems like everyone is staring at you.
“Social fear of public speaking is one of the biggest phobias that exists in our population,” Bailenson said.
“When you stand up there and everyone is staring at you, it’s a stressful experience.”
He further explains that when someone’s face comes close to ours in real life, our brain processes the action as an intense situation that leads to either mating or conflict.
“What actually happens when you use Zoom for many, many hours is that you find yourself in this over-excited state,” Bailenson said.
To prevent intense eye contact at close range, he suggests reducing the size of the video chat window.
The second cause of Zoom fatigue is seeing yourself on the screen.
“If in the real world someone were to follow you around with a mirror all the time – so that you could see yourself in the mirror while you’re talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback and receiving feedback – that would just be crazy.” “No one would ever think about it,” Bailenson added.
Bailenson cited studies that show that when you see a reflection of yourself, you become more critical of yourself.
Many of us now see each other in video chats for hours every day.
“It’s a burden for us.” It’s stressful. And there’s a lot of research that shows that looking at yourself in the mirror has negative emotional consequences,” he said.
To avoid staring at themselves, users can enable the Hide Self View button by right-clicking on their own photo. Everyone else can see you, but not you.
Since employees no longer have to walk to a conference room during meetings, many are experiencing a decrease in mobility.
Bailenson has identified this as a trigger for Zoom fatigue and recommends placing the camera further away from the screen so you have room to pace or walk around as if you were doing a real event.
And the last reason is: “Cognitive load is much higher with video chats.”
Bailenson points out that with regular face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication comes naturally, and each of us naturally executes and interprets gestures and nonverbal cues unconsciously. But with video chats, we have to work harder to send and receive signals.
However, he suggests taking an “audio-only” break and turning off the camera to avoid having to decipher nonverbal activity, “so you don’t get suffocated for a few minutes with gestures that are perceptually realistic but socially meaningless.”