Working life is more remote than event. Meetings have turned into Zoom calls and virtual events into glorified video calls alternatives. Even in the comfort of their homes (for those who actually have a quiet and suitable place for their working days), people are increasingly tired when joining those calls and online events. A new term emerged recently to summarize this feeling of exhaustion: Zoom fatigue.
A study from Stanford University led by professor Jeremy Bailenson has defined the 4 key factors behind Zoom fatigue. With the cause, comes the cure. We can now pinpoint solutions to alleviate those feelings and make the remote work experience more enjoyable for all.
Here are the four key factors, according to the study, that make videoconferences so taxing:
Everyone is staring at you the whole time. Uninterrupted eye contact all the time is not only tiring but simply said, not natural. Face to face meetings allow you to catch micro breaks (taking notes, doodling, even looking out a window or staring into your coffee cup) while you continue listening, 100% present. Virtual meetings should allow for setups where you can see other participants at any given moment but be allowed to also break that eye contact while being while being totally present and involved.
Look at you… Most of the more popular teleconferencing tools show the video feed of the other attendees, along with yours! You see yourself all the time. For decades, researchers have looked into how people become more self-critical when a mirror is presented upon them. Or, in other words: seeing yourself on screen during the meeting has a negative emotional impact on you: you subconsciously judge yourself, become more wary of your actions but in a quite unhelpful way. The solution? Using platforms that allow you to stream to others while turning your webcam being displayed on your own screen.
Lack of mobility. Video calls establish that you must be in frame the whole time. And most of us use laptop’s webcams or smartphones, at arm’s length, to participate. This effectively means we are trapped within the false four walls of the webcam frame, a much smaller space than our real desk setup, sitting and static. Studies are showing that we perform better cognitively when moving: walking activates us without distracting us. And not only that: walking is always a healthy choice rather than spending hours upon hours sitting at our desk. Solutions? If on mobile, you can always ask other fellow Zoom participants if they mind if you walk around, every now and then, just to activate. Provided you keep things stable, they for sure will understand. Of course, you can simply switch of your camera and stand, stretch. Bailenson also suggests considering a camera placed further away from us, to give us room to stand, pace, while still being in frame.
The distraction of video. Following the previous points, the study suggests long Zoom meetings should require audio-only breaks, to help relieve the cognitive load of video interactions. In the author’s words: “You’ve got to make sure that your head is framed within the center 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.” Break free. Give yourself some time not only to be video free but also to cut ties with the screen, turn yourself away from it. Let your ears be the ones who carry you through the meeting without any other attachment or distractions.
Remote work being forced upon all of us has fortunately also shown many of its benefits. And video calls certainly are pleasant when the setup is right. Let’s continue this learning journey and making sure everybody’s wellbeing is taken into account while continuing, business as usual, with our busy days!
Highly recommended, visit the source of inspiration for this article: Stanford researchers identify four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their simple fixes.