Find you’re tired after a long day of video conferencing?
Noticing some dread at the prospect of jumping on another Teams meeting?
Zoom fatigue is a ‘thing’. We get tired of being on Zoom throughout a day. It’s not just from Zoom though, it’s from any video conferencing platform. Stanford University has conducted research¹ that concludes video conferencing is in fact wearing you out. Many office-based jobs have remote interactions that involve spending hours per day, even if not back-to-back, on video calls with others which will tire you out. The reasons in the research were from a psychological perspective, it’s about brain processing.
The researcher was quick to point out that this wasn’t meant to malign video conferencing, rather to educate and provide solutions so here goes:
Why does Zoom Fatigue Us?
1. Looking and Being Looked at.
We are looking at people almost continuously. People are looking at us almost continuously. Most people fear public speaking, often because of being scrutinized by others. It results in anxiety and fear. Yet video conferencing has turned us all into public speakers, even the audience members are “on show” or being looked at, potentially even when they are saying nothing. This means there can be an underlying sense of anxiety about being watched.
2. Disproportionate Head Sizes
That sounds weird I know. And if you are video conferencing with only one other person there’s a high likelihood their head appears on screen larger than in real life. Also, we usually only experience people that ‘close up’ if we know them intimately. It’s a closer sense of personal space then we would have with colleagues and strangers. Proximity often implies a force – either intimacy like romance or conflict with someone “in your face.” Our brain subconsciously processes this disparity and force versus what is ‘normal.’
3. Seeing Ourselves
It is not natural to stare at yourself in a mirror for long periods of time. That’s effectively what happens in many of the video conferencing platforms; our image is part of the view. It is tiring for our brains to continually process our own image. Other research does show that we are more judgmental or critical of ourselves when we see our image.
4. Restricted Mobility
Video conferencing restricts our physical movement as there is usually a fixed field of view for the camera. This is restrictive by definition. In-person meetings and audio calls allow more movement than video. Some emerging research is starting to show that cognition is better when we move.
5. Takes More Effort to Convey Messages
When we talk in-person it’s natural for our brain to subconsciously process body language and non-verbal cues and to project those non-verbal cues too. On video, we must consciously think about conveying those cues and transmit them. For example, in-person if we agree our head often nods in agreement without us having to think about it. On video, to ensure that agreement is conveyed through this medium we consciously decide to nod our head, maybe do a thumbs-up gesture towards the camera, maybe click on the ‘reaction button’ to say thumbs-up digitally and then we often want to check that our agreement was seen or received. That’s a lot of conscious thought. This brain processing is extra energy we do not have to expend in person, no wonder we are tired.
Top 10 Tips to Minimize or Prevent Zoom Fatigue:
1. Use audio only when appropriate. Just because we can video doesn’t mean we have to.
2. Do audio calls standing up, moving around or walking outdoors if possible occasionally.
3. Turn off your “self-view” if that’s an option on your video conferencing platform so you don’t see yourself. Or put a ‘post-it note’ over your image on the screen as another means of not looking at yourself.
4. Minimize full-screen views when videoing with only 1-2 people.
5. Take a break from screens in general. When you get off a series of video meetings to have a break, refrain from picking up your phone to check messages or scroll social media.
6. Move more, both on video calls and in general. Distance yourself from the camera so you can stand up and move around more.
7. When in long video meetings ensure there are proper breaks built into the agenda.
8. Periodically in long video meetings, when appropriate, turn off your camera for even a minute or two to be audio only to ease the burden on your brain processing. It’s analogous to putting your car in idle for a moment.
9. Look away from the screen for a few minutes, literally turn away, beyond just switching the camera off, to minimize the amount of visual stimulation you are taking in.
10. Set ground rules with your team or those you interact with about when to use video and when not to in order to increase everyone’s energy and performance.
Do you want to be more energized and productive at work?
Do you want your team to feel and perform better?
Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could improve your effectiveness as a leader in times of remote working and video conferencing.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels