In the first peer-reviewed study of zoom fatigue, Stanford researchers reveal the psychological consequences of hours of video calling during the day.

Professor Jeremy Bailenson, director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, names four reasons why video conferencing can tire people.

Based on his findings, Bailenson suggests simple changes to the user interface to reduce the fatigue caused by video calls.

The study's intent is not to demonize Zoom or any other type of video conferencing. Bailenson admits they are great tools but suggests that people rethink how they are used.

"Video conferencing is a good thing for long-distance communication, but just think of the medium – just because you can use video doesn't mean you have to."

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What is so exhausting about Zoom and what can you do about it?

Here's what the study says.

The 4 causes of zoom fatigue

1. Excessive eye contact

Online video conferencing leads to unnatural eye contact. Everyone is looking at everyone all the time, which is in contrast to a traditional meeting where there are different things to focus on.

This is especially unnatural for meeting attendees who are not speaking, as they have a screen full of faces staring at them as if they were the speaker.

Hence, the experience is intended to induce fear of public speaking, even when a person is not actively speaking.

“The social fear of public speaking is one of the greatest phobias in our population. When you're standing up there and everyone is staring at you, it's a stressful experience. "

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The size and proximity of people's faces during video calls can also be tiring, but it depends on the equipment used by each user.

Solution?

Bailenson recommends that users:

  • Take the zoom out of full screen mode.
  • Reduce the size of the window in relation to your monitor to minimize face size.
  • Use an external keyboard to add more personal space between you and the screen.

2. See yourself all the time

It's unnatural to see yourself all the time you're talking to another person, but that's exactly what happens during Zoom Alls.

Zoom and most video conferencing platforms will display a square of your camera feed at the bottom of the screen during a chat.

Bailenson compares this to being followed with a mirror:

“In the real world, it would be just crazy if someone were constantly following you with a mirror – while you are talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, receiving feedback – seeing yourself in a mirror. Nobody would ever consider that. "

Solution?

Bailenson recommends the following:

  • Platforms should change the standard practice of sending user feeds both to themselves and to others.
  • Users should use the Hide Selfview button, which can be accessed by right-clicking your photo while on a call.

Restriction of mobility

Zoom calls unnaturally reduce people's mobility by forcing them to remain in a field of view. While humans are able to move around freely and move about during personal and pure audio conversations.

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Bailenson points to research suggesting that more exercise correlates with better brain function:

"There's growing research now that says people who move are cognitively better performing."

Solution?

Bailenson recommends the following:

  • Think more about the room you are in and whether things like an external keyboard can help create distance or flexibility.
  • Moving an external camera further away from the screen allows you to pace up and down and scribble like in a traditional meeting.
  • Establish a basic rule for turning off videos regularly during meetings to give everyone a short break.

Higher cognitive load

Natural nonverbal cues like gestures and body language are difficult to interpret during video calls, which means the brain has to work harder to send and receive signals.

Bailenson points out that people now have to think a lot about something that used to require no thinking at all.

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"You have to make sure that your head is framed in the middle of the video. If you want to show someone that you are okay with them, you have to give an exaggerated nod or thumbs up. This increases the cognitive load as you are using mental calories, to communicate. "

Solution?

Bailenson recommends the following:

  • Allow yourself a pure audio pause when zooming in.
  • Also, during audio-only pauses, point away from the screen so you aren't exposed to someone else's exaggerated body language.

Are you experiencing zoom fatigue?

Stanford developed it Exhaustion and fatigue scale for zoomor ZEF scale to measure how much fatigue people experience from video conferencing in the workplace.

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To find out if you suffer from zoom fatigue, you can take the 15-question survey here.

Sources: Stanford.edu, Technology, Mind, and Behavior

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