18 March 2022
What is Zoom fatigue?
The term ‘Zoom fatigue’ refers to the exhaustion and burnout experienced from the cognitive demands of video communication and conferencing.
Stanford University has identified the four main causes for Zoom fatigue:
Up close eye contact can be intense and exhausting. In a normal, face to face setting, we are constantly shifting our gaze and attention – very rarely will we maintain eye contact with the speaker (who may often divert their gaze also). We may glance down at our notebook if in a meeting, look out the window or cast our eyes down. It has also been noted that the size our faces appear on the screen is too large for comfort – we could become hyper aroused as a result. The discomfort comes from someone being in your personal space, which is often reserved for a much more intimate situation.
Having your reflection presented can be tiring. Nobody walks around with a mirror constantly looking at themselves. We can become self-critical and negative when presented with our own self-image. If this is the case, it is natural to assume staring at your face on screen might be taxing.
Less mobility with video chats. Being mobile can help us perform better cognitively. Being tethered to our screens can not only affect our attention but such a limited work set up can feel unnatural.
Video chats require more attention and a higher cognitive load. Zoom does not allow for the nuanced gestures of body language, which make up a large part of interpersonal communication. As we are unable to rely on the normal non-verbal cues to make ourselves understood, our brains work overtime to create new ways of communication. On screen, we aim to frame our head in the centre so that small hand gestures and emphasized nods for agreement can be seen.
We’re often dialing in from home where we might have kids, pets and partners sharing the space. We could feel anxious or worried about the potential interruption – will my child walk past the screen, or my dog bark disrupting the meeting?
Another stressor might be the internet quality and speed. Things we might be thinking about could include internet interference, our screens freezing or not being able to log on. Face to face communication lacks the uncertainty of the digital medium. There are many factors to consider in setting up for digital communication that we take for granted when relating in real life. We require more preparation and the psychological and emotional toll on us is greater.
Lastly, we might miss face-to-face contact. If it is in a work setting, it could be the office buzz of having people chatting, or the physical environment of the boardroom that might help more effectively get into ‘work mode.’
Ways to reduce Zoom Fatigue
Some useful resources: