Most of us earlier dismissed Zoom fatigue as a passing phase. But various studies suggest that it is here to stay. Spending long hours in front of a screen seems like something we'd have to live with in the near future. But yes, we're looking at a digital tomorrow, and we don't see it culminating anytime soon. Not long ago, we spoke about Zoom fatigue and how spending a copious amount of time video calling causes physical exhaustion apart from mental.
So, what exactly happens with Zoom fatigue?
It almost seemed like Zoom -- and video conferencing were the solutions to all our remote work communication woes. But it wasn't long before research pointed out how long-drawn exposure to these virtual meetings could be a source of exhaustion. Of course, this isn't only limited to Zoom, and it applies to everything beginning from Hangouts, Google Duo, Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx. Studies performed on any of these platforms have only revealed one thing: virtual interactions can take a toll on you. In fact, researchers have moved a step further and declared how it affects different people differently.
What does the research say about different personalities?
As bizarre as it sounds, it is true. A Stanford study also cited how it hits differently for men and women. According to Jeffrey Hancock, professor of communication in the School of Humanities and Sciences and co-author of the new study released April 13 on the Social Science Research Network, the findings add to a developing perception of how the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting certain groups of people,
"We've all heard stories about Zoom fatigue and anecdotal evidence that women are affected more, but now we have quantitative data that Zoom fatigue is worse for women, and more importantly, we know why," Hancock mentioned in the study.
Experts are also suggesting the possibility of extroverts suffering more due to Zoom fatigue. Krina, a professional baker, considers herself to be an extrovert. A lot of her work involves coordinating with vendors, customers and taking custom orders via video calls. "The pandemic wore me out," she told The Bridge Chronicle. "For a while, I thought I was just overwhelmed with work, but later I realised that it were the virtual calls that were exhausting me." In conventional circumstances, Krina finds herself engaged on phone calls and meeting people outside of her comfort zone a lot more than what she does during the lockdown. "The strange part is, as a self-declared extrovert, I never thought conversations could wear me out. But looks like Zoom fatigue is, in fact, real," she says.
What causes this condition?
While there are several reasons, experts cite 'silence' as the number one cause of Zoom fatigue. In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 2014, speaks about how a technical "lag" during video calls could cause the person on the other side to perceive you as "unpleasant". So, a delay of up to 1.2 seconds could cause people to think you're rude. If that's not an added pressure, we don't know what it! That said, Stanford states four reasons that are responsible for this notorious form of exhaustion. Read on to find (and correct) them for yourself:
- Looking at yourself is exhausting: No, this is not a hoax! Watching yourself constantly in a square box can drain the life out of you. Imagine someone following you with a mirror -- all day! The feeling of weariness goes hand-in-hand with the reaction to this phenomenon. Further, the study probes and cites that the more you see yourself in the "box", the more critical you are of yourself.
How to solve this: Switch to speaker view instead of gallery view. Change platforms if required and use the 'hide self view' button on Zoom to avoid looking at yourself.
- Video conferences limited our mobility: When Idea Cellular showed us that you could indeed 'walk and talk', we were stunned. Conversations entered a whole new dimension, and all of us ended up considering the idea after all. But not long after moving on from being tied down by landlines, we're back to sitting in one place and attending video calls. The thought of staying restricted to one room and corner during your day is enough to wear you out.
How to solve this: Attend conferences using your smartphone instead of your laptop. If you're a team leader, allow your team to stretch or turn off their video cameras when not required.
- There's a lot of cognitive load: The study mentions how regular face-to-face conversations require less comprehending when compared with virtual discussions. During video conferences, your brain demands a lot more strength to decode signs, signals, gestures and other non-verbal forms of communication. It is challenging to interpret different movements on video calls, unlike when you're in front of the person. For instance, a quick glance to your side could mean you're looking at something in the room. However, to your colleagues, it could look as if you're unsure or nervous.
How to solve this: Take an audio break (along with the video break mentioned above) and switch to regular calls unless absolutely essential for the meeting. Practising this from time to time can ensure lesser strain on the employees.
- A lot of eye contact is stressful: Isn't it? Not to mention -- borderline creepy! Under natural circumstances, conversations do not require a lot of eye contact. There's an added pressure of being correct as the general perception is that everyone is always looking at you. Social anxiety is a very common reason why Zoom fatigue exists. That said, not just the lecturer -- but the listeners, too, have to make sure of their undivided attention.
How to solve this: When it is your turn to speak, take Zoom off the fullscreen option, or reduce the size of your window to match the other windows.
In conclusion, Zoom fatigue is here to stay. We're only going to have to adapt to this and its increasing effects in the coming years. However, there's always a way around any of the man-made technological roadblocks. And we can only hope that each of them will terminate at their own time!