If you are feeling worn out after a day of video calls, recent research shows that there are some good reasons why. As social distancing protocols have kept us apart from each other, virtual meetings have skyrocketed and the term “Zoom fatigue” has become part of our wellness vocabulary.
Stanford University researchers have recently studied this phenomenon and have identified the reasons why we experience Zoom fatigue and how we might take advantages of the benefits and decrease the negative impacts.
Four Reasons and Solutions for Zoom fatigue:
PROBLEM 1: Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact can be intense. Both the amount of eye contact we engage in on video chats, as well as the size of faces on screens, is unnatural for us to experience. When we meet in person, we usually alternate between looking at the speaker, taking notes, or looking elsewhere. On Zoom calls, everyone is looking at everyone, all the time. Even if you don’t speak, you still see faces staring at you and for many of us, this can be uncomfortable. Additionally, depending on the size of your monitor, faces can appear much larger than in real life and your brain may interpret it as an intense situation, causing you to feel that fight or flight response. Now multiply these responses by several meetings a day and it’s no wonder we feel fatigued.
SOLUTION: Consider taking Zoom out of the full-screen option to minimize face size. You can also use an external keyboard (instead of your laptop) to allow for more personal space between you and the other “faces.”
PROBLEM 2: Looking at yourself during video chats is tiring. When you video chat, you usually see square of yourself which is not the way we normally speak with others. It can be distracting and uncomfortable to watch yourself share information or give feedback or make decisions. It’s like looking in the mirror all day, which is very unnatural.
SOLUTION: Video chat platforms usually have a “hide self view” button, which you can find by right-clicking on your photo. Just using this feature for some of your meetings could help.
PROBLEM 3: Video chats reduce our ability to move around as we talk. In-person and phone conversations allow you to walk around and move in other ways. With videoconferencing, you need to stay in the same spot, which can impact your ability to think and can make you physically uncomfortable after a while.
SOLUTION: Consider options for camera, keyboard and laptop placement that might allow you to stand or even doodle while you are videoconferencing. You can also be the one in the meeting that suggests everyone stand and stretch and/or take a break during a long meeting so that people can move, use the rest room or grab a snack.
PROBLEM 4: Our brains need to work harder during video chats. In regular face-to-face interaction, nonverbal communication offers clues about how a person is receiving what you are sharing and you unconsciously make adjustments in response to those clues. In video chats, you have to work harder to send and receive signals.
SOLUTION: During long stretches of meetings, give yourself an “audio only” break and turn your body away from the screen for just a couple of minutes. You may want to let the other participants know at the start of the meeting that you may find the need to do this, but will continue to be fully engaged in the meeting.
Videoconferencing is here to stay—even post-pandemic. With some small adjustments and creativity, we can make it work for our needs and avoid Zoom fatigue.