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  • Writer's pictureEmily Gallagher

Conquering Zoom fatigue

Video conferencing quickly became one of many new activities that our society deems to be part of the “new-normal” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many find it easy to log on and off virtual calls and meetings daily, or even multiple times a day, now that we are a year into their occurrence, the potential side effects of video conferences have surfaced.

Professor Jeremy Bailenson, director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, has been studying the psychological consequences of spending hours on video conferences. As a result, he explains what is happening to us in this form of communication as well as tips on how to conquer “Zoom fatigue.” (Note, for the purpose of this blog, we are referring to all platforms as Zoom, but substitute your favorite platform into the discussion as you see fit).

  1. Eye contact and the unnatural size of faces on the screen is the first reason why people experience Zoom fatigue. People typically look at the speaker, take notes and gaze elsewhere during normal meetings, but during Zoom, everyone is constantly looking at everyone. This can easily be a distraction and cause individuals to feel uncomfortable as to who might be looking at them.

  2. Close-up faces on the screen interfere with personal space and create an awkward feeling when engaging in a video conference. Bailenson suggests taking Zoom off the full screen setting and creating more space between yourself and the screen. Looking at yourself during a video conference is an unnatural factor leading to Zoom fatigue. Utilizing “hide self-view” on zoom can reduce stress and distractions while video conferencing.

  3. Video conferencing also hinders an individual's ability to move around during a meeting. Movement is natural and it can be taxing when movement is limited during long meetings. The set-field of view on video conferencing forces individuals to stay put for long periods of time. Turning video off periodically during meetings or creating a larger space to move about within the frame can reduce stress and fatigue when attending long video conferences.

  4. Non-verbal communication, body language and hand gestures are important to communication, but are hindered during a virtual meeting. It can be cognitively demanding to try and interpret a conversation without non-verbal cues. Bailenson recommends taking an “audio only” break during long stretches of meetings to take a mental break and get some movement going.

While video conferencing and virtual meetings are likely here to stay, it is key to experiment with these tips to alleviate Zoom fatigue, or you risk the impact on a team member’s general, motivational and emotional well-being.

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