The popularity of “Zooming” was borne of necessity. How else could we stay connected with colleagues, clients and loved ones when the whole world was in quarantine?
Since then, videoconferencing has become a part of our daily lives. Collectively, we log into virtual meetings hundreds of millions of times a day. There’s no driving, no parking, no traffic. No problem, right?
Not necessarily, say Stanford University researchers. Their 2021 study proved that hours of virtual meetings can be much more stressful than face-to-face ones.
What causes “Zoom fatigue?”
1. Long periods of intense and close-up eye contact
Remember “regular” meetings? You’d look at who’s speaking, exchange glances with other attendees, take notes, look around the room. But on Zoom calls, everyone is looking at everyone . . . all the time. Everyone’s staring at you (and others), and the phobia many of us have about public speaking comes into play. The result: Uninterrupted stress.
To make things worse, many monitors display faces at a size that’s uncomfortably large. Our brains interpret this as an invasion of personal space, something that only happens during mating or conflict.
The solution: Take Zoom out of the full-screen option and minimize face sizes by reducing the window relative to the screen size.
2. Seeing yourself throughout the video meeting
Imagine someone following you around with a mirror all day while you make decisions, respond to questions and reacted to others. That’s what seeing yourself on camera can feel like. It tends to make us more critical of ourselves, and more self-conscious - leaving us mentally exhausted after just one meeting, let alone four or five a day.
The solution: In Zoom, use the “hide self-view” button. Hover over your video, click on the ellipses button to display the menu, then select “Hide Self View.” Microsoft Teams also lets you hide your own video.
3. Having to remain stationary
With meetings in person or over the phone, you often have the freedom to move around. That movement releases stress and, studies show, helps us perform better cognitively. Conversely, in a video conference, we’re locked into a sitting position in front of the camera.
The solution: Turn off your camera occasionally during meetings and stretch your legs.
4. Working harder to send and receive gestures and cues
Communicating is, in most cases, easier and more natural when we’re face to face. Gestures and responses come naturally, both to the sender and the receiver. In a video conference, we have to work much harder to get the same interaction.
A subtle nod of agreement done in person, for example, must be more exaggerated on video. Gestures can feel forced. Add in outside distractions – like when a child enters the frame during a meeting – and it can be much harder to make and sustain a meaningful connection.
The solution: Again, during longer meetings, take a camera-off, audio-only break from exaggerated gestures and gesturing. Physically turn away from the screen, so you can tune into what’s being said with words, not with body language.
Pub11780 2022-143605 Exp. 9/24