When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020 and people shifted to living their lives totally from home, videoconferencing quickly became a primary mode of communication. Suddenly, hundreds of millions of people were spending most of their work day sitting in front of a screen, watching an array of faces staring back at them, and the term “Zoom fatigue” soon emerged. It was reported as a peculiar sort of tiredness at the end of whole days of videoconferencing, which seemed reasonable but counter-intuitive.
A new study from Stanford University communications specialist Jeremy Bailenson is investigating the increasingly prevalent condition of “Zoom Fatigue.” Bailenson suggests there are four key factors that make videoconferencing so uniquely exhaustive, and he recommends simple solutions to reduce those symptoms.
One cause for Zoom Fatigue he suggests is the state of stressed hyper-stimulation created by excessive periods of close-up eye contact. Unlike an in-person meeting, where participants will move from looking at a speaker to other things in the room, such as note taking, on Zoom everyone is always staring at everyone. The short-term solutions to mitigate this issue is to reduce the size of your videoconferencing window or try to move away from your computer monitor. The goal, Bailenson notes, is to increase the personal space between yourself and other Zoom participants’ faces.
Zoom and other videoconferencing technologies have undoubtedly been useful tools helping us weather this global pandemic. Of course, it is not likely we will revert fully back to the way things were done before the pandemic, as virtual meetings are now deeply woven into our social fabric and there are tangible practical benefits, as we’ve outlined in past newsletters. As we continue to navigate this new world and reflect on the behavioral changes our society has embraced, new research will hopefully bring us greater insight into these and related issues.
See you on the trail,