The intensive use of video conferencing has become the new professional norm over the past year. The appearance of a new phenomenon “Zoom Fatigue” has aroused the interest of researchers at Stanford University. According to their study, too many virtual meetings could hurt our psychological health.

Summary:

  1. “Zoom Fatigue´”- what is it?
  2. Reasons for this psychological fatigue
  3. Tips to avoid burnout

“Zoom Fatigue”- What is it?

How can this phenomenon be explained?

Teleworking has become widely popular since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has encouraged the emergence of video as a new professional communication solution. While its use was, at first sight, beneficial for bringing us together both personally and professionally, the trend has been reversed. Unfortunately, these various collaboration platforms have their disadvantages alongside their many advantages.

The intensive use of these tools has led to certain moral exhaustion among many students and teleworkers Our neighbours on the other side of the Atlantic have even given a name to this professional weariness known throughout the world: “Zoom Fatigue”. By definition, “Zoom Fatigue” is psychological fatigue caused by the overuse of meeting platforms, which leads to a deterioration in the mental well-being of the people concerned.

Reasons for this psychological fatigue:

Too much eye contact

When you have a person in front of you, it is easy to look the speaker in the eye and look away. In a remote meeting via Zoom, Teams, Google Meet or Skype, the participants look at each other all the time, without ever looking away. Looking directly for long periods tires our brains even faster. In addition, the size of the faces on the screens is far from natural and will make our brains even more tired.

Seeing yourself all the time

Most people do not constantly admire themselves in front of a mirror as they are self-critical. The same applies to long-distance conversation. Seeing our faces for several minutes or even hours at a time can be distracting, confusing, and in some cases even stressful. We focus on our facial expressions and other details that are not related to the conversation at hand.

Little or no mobility

Phone calls are synonymous with freedom, as they allow us to pace around, get a drink of water or even stretch out in the middle of a conversation. With video conferencing, things are completely different. To stay in the field of view of our webcam, many of us are forced to sit in front of our computer screen for the duration of the video conference. A technical problem with our internet line or a computer problem can also force us to stay close to our box and limit our movements.

A cognitive load that is far too high

Non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. It naturally reflects our attitude and reactions to the different things that are said. While it is easy to give and pick up these signals in face-to-face meetings, it is much more difficult in a video conference. When conferencing, we must make considerable and exaggerated efforts to convey a reaction.

What do the experts say?

“If you want to show someone that you agree with them, you have to give an exaggerated nod or thumbs up. It adds cognitive load when you use mental calories to communicate.”

Jeremy Bailenson- Stanford University, 2020.

Tips to avoid burnout:

As teleworking has become the new professional norm, virtual exchanges have multiplied to allow employees to communicate without meeting each other. With the democratization of videoconferencing as a collaboration tool, it is essential to establish “rules” so that Zoom Fatigue does not take over our working day.

Some rules to consider:

Make the use of video optional

The use of video in a videoconference is not always necessary. When it is a video conference where participation is expected, it is of course advisable to activate the camera. However, we can use the camera only when we are talking, to create a compromise.

In more “passive” meetings such as training sessions, individual participants should not be forced to use their camera so that the presenter is always the focus of attention.

Turn off your video feedback

When we interact with someone socially, we see their face, naturally, but we don’t see our own. Why should this be different in a virtual conference? Seeing our faces all the time is unnatural and can create issues in the short or long term. To remedy this problem, some features allow us to hide our camera from our view while leaving it visible to other participants. This is the case with the Zoom communication platform, which offers a “hide me” function to deactivate our video feedback.

Use telephone calls instead

Not all business meetings require video conferencing. Often, a simple phone call or email would be sufficient to deal with the various topics on the agenda. Conference calls give us more flexibility as we can take your calls from anywhere and we are not forced to sit behind our screen. Finally, we don’t have to be dressed up to take part in a conference call, which is necessary for a video conference.

Set an agenda

A videoconference that drags on for too long encourages a feeling of “Zoom Fatigue” among the participants, who gradually lose focus. To remedy this problem and avoid virtual meetings lasting several hours, each person should draw up an agenda beforehand. Defining a precise topic allows us to limit the length of a meeting. It also stops the participants straying too far from the topic determined beforehand.

Dedicate break times

Having one virtual meeting after another will help us to achieve nothing, except “Zoom Fatigue”. To have productive and effective meetings, we must take breaks between our communications. Jeremy Bailenson and researchers at Stanford estimate that it takes about 10 minutes for participants to decompress and fully close a meeting before moving on to the next. We will significantly improve our productivity and concentration at work by taking short breaks between virtual conferences.

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