Zoom Fatigue Is Getting At The Best Of Us. Here Are Reasons Why And What You Can Do
Zoom Fatigue Is getting At The Best Of Us
The COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing lockdown have given way to a new way of communicating. Instead of going to the office, most people now communicate on video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Teams, from the comfort of their homes.
This is good: after all, who wants to be stuck in traffic while they commute to work?
This doesn’t only save time and energy, but money, too. And for employers, not having their staff in the office means less overhead cost involved, allowing their businesses to operate in a leaner way.
However, too much video conferencing has given rise to what is called “Zoom fatigue.”
You know that feeling: you are in an online meeting and you feel drained, even before you are halfway through it.
The Zoom Fatigue
Dina Zaman, the co-founder of the Malaysian think-tank IMAN research, said that she averaged about 20 hours per week of video conferencing during last year alone.
She said that while she enjoys not having to meet people in real life so frequently, being constantly on Zoom is exhausting. “Sometimes the person can go on and on. Another thing is that sometimes the moderator or facilitator does not know how to engage with the audience, so I get tired.”
Freelance media professional Mayang Al-Mohdar said that she feels “wiped out” at the end of online meetings.
“Even when the service is at its best – no lags, clear reception, etc. – it’s still very difficult to respond to multiple [people] talking. All the verbal and non-verbal cues from a face to face meeting are gone, and therefore it is very difficult to respond effectively. Everyone tries to respond sensitively, but we always end up talking on top of each other. So much is lost, it’s a mess and everyone ends up completely drained from the effort.”
Here Are Reasons Why
Stanford researchers studied “Zoom fatigue” in-depth and explained four different reasons behind this phenomenon.
1) Too much eye contact can be intense
When you’re on a video conferencing platform such as Zoom, you can’t look around the room as much and do things like taking notes freely as compared to when you are in a physical face-to-face meeting.
You also have to constantly look at everyone in the meeting and everyone is looking at you and each other.
This can be draining.
Furthermore, depending on the size of your computer monitor, faces on video conferencing calls can appear too large for comfort.
Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), said: “In general, for most setups, if it’s a one-on-one conversation when you’re with coworkers or even strangers on video, you’re seeing their face at a size which simulates a personal space that you normally experience when you’re with somebody intimately.”
“What’s happening, in effect, when you’re using Zoom for many, many hours, is you’re in this hyper-aroused state,” he added.
2) Looking at yourself during video conferencing is tiring
Video conferencing allows people to view themselves whilst communicating.
Bailenson said that when this happens, people tend to feel critical over themselves, pointing out that: “In the real world, if somebody was following you around with a mirror constantly – so that while you were talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, getting feedback – you were seeing yourself in a mirror, that would just be crazy. No one would ever consider that.”
3) Video conferencing reduces your opportunity to stand up and walk around
Being on video conferencing means you are forced to sit down and view your computer, most of the time, which is unnatural. “There’s a growing research now that says when people are moving, they’re performing better cognitively,” Bailenson said.
4) You have to focus more and think harder when communicating over Zoom
It is harder to interpret nonverbal communication, such as gestures and cues, when you are on video conferencing platforms.
This strains your mind harder. Bailenson said: “You’ve got to make sure that your head is framed within the centre of the video. If you want to show someone that you are agreeing with them, you have to do an exaggerated nod or put your thumbs up. That adds cognitive load as you’re using mental calories in order to communicate.”
What You Can Do
Bailenson recommends these solutions:
- Do not use Zoom on full-screen.
- Use the “hide the self-view” button.
- Position an external camera further away from the screen so you can pace and doodle in video meetings.
- Pause and turn off the video from time to time.
- Give yourself an “audio break” from time to time.
Dina suggests that Zoom improves its user experience by limiting drops during meetings and making the platform visually friendlier.
Meanwhile, Mayang suggests that Zoom and other platforms like it, upgrade and streamline their technical capabilities.
However, she said the bigger issue is “really how to figure out what exactly is missing in a video meeting that is so easy face-to-face.
It’s intuitive for people to respond to others face-to-face, but a video call cuts off so many elements of what makes that interaction so easy, for example, directional sound, three-dimensionality, depth of field, how far and how much you can see, hear, smell etc.”
Many predict that video conferencing will be the new norm, even after the pandemic is over.
Therefore, while we wait for Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other video conferencing tools to respond to people’s complaints and upgrade their user experience further, it is up to us users ourselves to adapt accordingly to the limitations of such tools in whatever ways we can.