Zoom fatigue. We all know it’s a real thing—it’s exhausting to spend more than an hour or so in a videoconference, and for many people working and attending school from home, those video sessions can go for six or more hours per day. Jeremy Bailenson of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab has now identified four reasons why video chats are so tiring, and he offers suggestions for avoiding their worst effects. In short:
- Close-up eye contact is intense. You’d never be so close to someone’s face in real life, so try using gallery view and reducing the size of the window. Talking postage stamps are less likely to make you feel like someone is up in your face.
- Looking at yourself is stressful. Staring at yourself in a mirror—and worrying if you look OK—for hours per day would cause insanity, and yet that’s what we do in many videoconferencing platforms. Once you’ve verified that you’re properly framed and have brushed your hair for the day, hide your preview or switch to a view that doesn’t include it.
- Sitting still is hard. When meeting in person or talking on the phone, we move around, even if it’s just adjusting position in a chair. Keeping yourself framed in a video window dramatically reduces your mobility, so try turning off your video at times or positioning your camera such that you can fidget or pace as you would in person.
- Video chats have a high cognitive load. Videoconferencing encourages all sorts of odd behaviors that require some level of active thought. For instance, keeping yourself framed in the video chat, using a thumbs-up to indicate silent approval, and trying to interpret everyone else’s reactions all require cognitive processing that doesn’t come naturally. The solution is to give yourself an audio-only break, both sending and receiving, so you can let your brain rest.
Read the full article for more details, plus an encouragement to participate in a study of the new Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale, which aims to measure how much fatigue people experience in the workplace from videoconferencing. The results from the study could help videoconferencing companies change their apps to make them less exhausting.