Employers Take Note: Zoom Fatigue is Real

The prevalence of the zoom call seemed a welcome trade-off to the daily commute to the office back in the early days of pandemic living. Eighteen months later, remote workers are growing tired of this weekly, sometimes daily, expectation. A recent study published in the Technology, Mind and Behaviour journal on February 23, 2021, by communication Professor Jeremy Bailenson found four leading causes of zoom fatigue. He found it was nonverbal overload that wore down remote workers. Namely, "excessive amounts of close-up eye gaze, cognitive load, increased self-evaluation from staring at video of oneself, and constraints on physical mobility."

Overall, it's the constant feeling of being on display that appears to exhaust users. These can be remedied by following a few simple tips. 

Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

Being on a video call doesn't mean you should have to look at yourself the whole time. In fact, it can be pretty distracting. Staring at yourself in meeting after meeting can lead to what psychologists call "self-focused attention" and can trigger anxiety and depression in some users. The Zoom platform has the ability to “disable self-view” as do some other platforms, so check your settings. If that isn't an option, take periodic breaks from staring at the screen by turning your body sideways while listening and only face the camera when speaking. 

Keep on moving

We already know that sitting for long periods can be detrimental to our health. But did you know that being on video while sitting is even worse? When we know we're on display, it causes us to sit still and "freeze up," says Jeff Hancock, professor of communications at Stanford University and founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab. Hancock advises users to get up and move around even during a live meeting. Many laptops have a wide-angle lens giving you a little more freedom so go grab that coffee or stand and stretch your legs.

What are you actually saying?

Nonverbal communication, or body language, is a natural part of any in-person meeting. We subconsciously look for cues as to how our conversation is being interpreted. Subtle gestures can tell us a lot, but in teleconference calls, these gestures are missing. It forces us to make exaggerated expressions like a thumbs up, vigorous head nod or worse, interrupt the speaker. As Bailenson notes, "users are forced to consciously monitor nonverbal behaviour and to send cues to others that are intentionally generated." It means we expend more energy ensuring the other attendees clearly understand what we're talking about, and this can be exhausting. 

On top of the above measures, experts recommend reducing the number of teleconference calls, if possible. Ask yourself, "does this need to be a video call with my team, or can I send an email?" In many cases, an email or phone call will more than suffice. 

Want to learn more about flexible work?