Zoom Fatigue: A New Type of Physical Discomfort
Posted on December 15, 2022 | in EHS
Many of us have gotten used to taking video calls after almost three years of working remotely. Have you ever noticed after a day of back-to-back video calls that you’re more fatigued, mentally and physically, than if the meeting had taken place in person? Have you missed being in in-person meetings, preferring that option to worrying about your camera face or video background?
It’s called Zoom Fatigue, and it’s real.
This is a relatively new phenomenon called Zoom Fatigue – specifically titled “Zoom,” as that was the most commonly used video conferencing platform at the onset of the pandemic. It’s a very real experience, characterized by the exhaustion at the end of a work day full of virtual calls.
Its existence is being studied and proven by many renowned institutions, such as Stanford University. These studies show that people constantly exposed to video calls suffer more from headaches, physical and mental fatigue, stress, and anxiety. First considered a random and simple malaise, Zoom fatigue is now a serious concern for employers whose workers are dealing with exhaustion caused by the excess of virtual meetings.
The Contributing Factors to Zoom Fatigue
- “Mirror effect” – When people see themselves on video, they’re receiving constant feedback on how they look and how they present, making them constantly change their postures, fix their hair or change the way they look for the camera. This can be a big distraction for many people.
- Sedentary work – People often take calls while sitting and end up staying in that position for long periods, causing the detrimental effects of sedentary work.
- Exaggeration in communication – Workers feel they need to use more of their body language, with many body gestures, to get better understood by the group.
During a conversation, your brain doesn’t only focus on the words you’re speaking and listening to. It collects many additional meanings from dozens of non-verbal cues, such as looks, body movements and even respiratory rate. With all these details appearing on our computer screens, our cognitive system can overload, possibly causing headaches, stress, anxiety and physical pain.
It’s important that companies discuss internally how to reduce this fatigue, considering the aspects and strategies of their business.
Some possible solutions may be:
- Encouraging a designated non-meeting day, for a day free of video calls.
- Establish a policy of 15 minutes between each meeting so that people can get out of their chairs and move around a bit.
- Establish a policy of 45-minute-maximum duration for meetings, scheduled at the top of the hour to ensure that people have those 15 minutes between calls.
- Encourage a reduction of virtual meetings, replacing them with emails or collaborative work in shared documents whenever possible.
- Allow employees to turn off their cameras occasionally, preventing the “mirror effect.”
- Offer training on topics such as video conference management, remote and synchronous work, and Zoom Fatigue itself, so that workers can be more aware of this effect, its causes, and the possible strategies to reduce this fatigue.
Now that work can be done from anywhere, employers need to be aware of Zoom fatigue to encourage employees to take care of themselves, so that they can do their best work remotely.