Video chats used to be special occasions, dates scheduled with friends and family abroad or occasionally, took the place of a conference call in the office. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, video chat platforms like Zoom and Google Meet are the primary means of communication and social interaction, be it personal or professional.
The Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab examined the psychological consequences of spending so much time on these platforms. They assessed Zoom’s individual technical aspects on the basis of how they contribute to Zoom fatigue. The conclusions suggest that current implementations are exhausting, and the results have some ideas for making better use of the interface. This can be important to consider as conversations begin between organizations and potential digital strategy agencies, especially during the exploratory, initial phases.
Causes of Zoom Fatigue
1. Excessive Eye Contact is Exhausting
There is nothing natural about both the amount of eye contact on video chats as well as the number of faces engaged with at once. Commonly in meetings and presentations, there is one focal point: the speaker. Participants don’t have to acknowledge other individuals, but can instead take notes, or look elsewhere.
But having everyone on screen at once leads to an intensity generally reserved for one-on-one encounters.
The Fix: Click out of the full-screen option and resize the interface to reduce face size. Create a personal bubble between yourself and the grid.
2. Seeing Your Own Face During Video Chats is Also Exhausting
It’s like someone following you around with a mirror through every meeting and interaction. This leads to increased self-criticism. No one is supposed to spend as much time on their face as people do in a Zoom call.
The Fix: Search for the option to hide your own video feed.
3. There’s Less Mobility in Video Chats
Some of us get our step count up from being on a phone call and pacing. In-person conversations can also take place in transit. But with video chats, you’re tethered to the same spot.
The Fix: Turn off your video from time to time during the meeting. Take that time for a small break. Also, like in the fix for the first cause, create space between yourself and the camera.
4. The Cognitive Load is Higher
Nonverbal communication is a huge part of communicating in person. In video chats, between low resolution video feeds and delayed internet, we have to work harder to make those communications stick. Example are exaggerated nodding and thumbs up for agreement. Keeping these actions at front of mind distracts from the interaction and adds to the fatigue.
The Fix: Have sections of meetings to be audio-online, much like a phone call where you don’t have to perform nonverbal communication.
Life in quarantine comes with new stressors and pressures. The scant moments of socialization and communication shouldn’t be one of them.
Adapted from: “Stanford researchers identify four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their simple fixes” from Stanford News: https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/