Zoom Fatigue - it's a real thing!

Photo by Marcel Friedrich on Unsplash

Many of us have step the last several months trying to figure out the best way to stay socially connected while physically distanced. Zoom video conferencing (or some other video conferencing platform) seems to be the method most individuals have been using. For some it required learning an entirely new technology, platform, and way of communicating. Others may have needed to become more comfortable with all the features the platform offers. All of us learned what it means to be “camera-ready” and how to make sure we know when our cameras are on and when we are muted.

All these months of videoconferencing for work, school, virtual happy hours, dating, holiday gatherings, doctor appointments, chats with family and friends, have led us to “Zoom fatigue.” Jeremy Bailenson, a professor of communication at Stanford University who consulted on Together Mode, helps us to understand some of the reason why video conferencing can be so much more tiring than an in-person meeting. Jeremy says that “the faces presented on a typical videoconferencing grid reflect the dimensions of a person standing about two feet from you. Very rarely are you standing two feet away from a person and staring at them for an hour like that, unless you’re getting in conflict.” “When you have faces staring at you like this, the arousal response kicks in, that fight-or-flight mode. If you’re in fight-or-flight mode all day, it’s taxing to do these meetings.”

Also, Eric Zillmer, the Carl R. Pacifico professor of neuropsychology at Drexel University and the school’s athletics director, explains that “when the brain processes information in face-to-face interactions, it pays attention to what’s said, of course. But that’s only part of the story. The brain also incorporates a multitude of nonverbal cues, such as that slight nudge of the head in disagreement or sideways glance, a vocal pause of confusion, or quick uptake of air to interrupt. With the two-dimensional, Hollywood Squares world of Zoom, “that goes out the window.” “We’re missing the social cues, and therefore, we’re missing a lot of information.” “You have to fill in the gaps, and that takes cognitive energy. You get tired more quickly.” 

Think you might be suffering from Zoom fatigue? Click here to learn about four signs that indicate you might be.

Cheats to Help Zap Zoom Fatigue

Not only does Zoom zap our energy and our brains, but it also beats down our bodies. Suzanne Degges-White, chair of counseling and higher education at Northern Illinois University, has some recommendations:

  • Break away from the screen to move your body and rest your eyes. Even two minutes of meditation can refresh. “When your eyes are tired, you’re tired.”
  • Establish clear boundaries between your home office and your living area, even if it’s the same space. At the end of the workday, she recommends changing the lighting or ditching the coffee mug from the desk to shift the mood.
  • Don’t take every meeting on Zoom. Sometimes a phone call works just as well.
  • Don’t take that meeting at all, if possible — or attend that happy hour. You don’t have to attend everything you’re invited to.

If you are working and are feeling “Zoomed out,” here are some suggestions on How to Tell Your Boss You Have Zoom Fatigue.

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