What Causes Zoom Fatigue, and What Is It?
The pandemic affected not only our work style but our lives. Yet, we adapted with some effort and an open mind to remote work. For many, it even provided benefits like increased flexibility, removed long commutes, and spending more time with family.
But now, a year has passed, and the platforms of Zoom and Microsoft Teams are still our world of work. We communicate with colleagues through meetings and chats; we create through workspaces and webinars on a large scale. However, recent studies have identified psychological impacts of immersion in video calls that lead to the feeling known as 'Zoom Fatigue.' Many factors can cause Zoom fatigue, and there are also different degrees of burnout – our minds are wired differently. After interviews and research, a Stanford study found four downsides of constantly engaging in virtual communication.
1. The video camera lens is intense and close up.
When having a face-to-face meeting, you have an eye periphery and the spontaneous look to everywhere else, either taking notes, looking out the window, presentation slides, etc. Instead, you find yourself staring at the screen in Zoom meetings and having the participants close to you. Your keyboard may be the distance to your colleagues. Staring at the screen is tiring and more so when the screen is so close to the eye emphasizing all facial expressions participants do. However, having participants so close may be difficult for introverts as there is no personal space as in face-to-face meetings.
"My camera is too zoomed in to me and too close to my face that made me feel timid. I was not able to focus on the topic of our meeting."
2. Seeing yourself constantly on the video screen is like living in a mirror.
Your view may be smaller when there are more participants; however, you see yourself on a large tile (unless you opt to hide your perspective). Regardless, some people feel like they are living in a mirror while working. Seeing yourself in meetings can be tiring and even uncomfortable.
"It is uncomfortable whenever a person shares his or her screen, and I can see my face on it."
3. Video calls keep our bodies still, missing stretching and mobility.
We sit on video calls without moving much, impairing our ability to stand up and walk. However, studies suggest that moving our bodies lifts not only our energy and mood but our cognitive ability (more oxygen to our brains). Besides, the fact that sitting all day is not recommended for healthy body posture.
"Stepping outside the work area and talking to people for a few minutes makes people feel refreshed and better."
4. Virtual communication may allow reading of body language and natural eye-to-eye contact.
Communication face to face comes naturally. Gestures and body language express our mood, agreement, or disagreement. The body speaks for itself, and people receive and get messages spontaneously. Video calls are a completely different human experience; the screen shows your face and upper body only, making it harder to see complete reactions. Participants on a call need to exaggerate their expressions to make sure others see them. Trying to guess the body language and exaggerating movements requires constant effort.
"I bring my thumb closer to the screen and move it higher to show that I agree."
How can we reduce emotional and physical Zoom fatigue? The Stanford Study provides four healthy tips.
- Reduce the size of the video window to minimize your face size.
- Use an external keyboard to create more space for the screen.
- Hide your view by changing the settings.
- Turn off your camera (if allowed).
- Give yourself space to extend your legs and stretch (even during your call).
- Schedule mid-day workouts.
- Some people even walk on a treadmill during meetings (a good headset is a must).
- Find cues that will make you understand other people's reactions
- Use the chat for side comments and icons of "clapping" and "hearts" to express your feelings.
We all experience some degree of Zoom fatigue by staring at our tile on the screen and seeing ourselves more often than we may want to; sitting for a long time, decreasing our physical mobility and mental breaks; and lacking human contact.
We have the option to change and improve our energy and well-being by incorporating the suggested tips. They may take some time to adapt and follow, but they are certainly worth trying. As we move to a hybrid work (remote and at the office), video calls will slowly be less necessary, and work-life will return to a more comfortable pattern.