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Advice on Overcoming Zoom Fatigue

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Recent studies by Stanford and Microsoft point to the reality of Zoom Fatigue - the physiological and psychological tiredness caused by back-to-back virtual meetings. Both studies explore reasons for the tiredness and present advice on reducing the impact.

Turning off self-view, making space to move around, taking audio-only breaks during long calls and ensuring you take breaks between videoconference calls are key points to help overcome the tiredness caused by videoconferencing.

The Stanford study identified four causes why video conferences fatigue humans:

  1. Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense
  2. Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing
  3. Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility
  4. The cognitive load is much higher in video chats

The Microsoft study looked at the impact of back-to-back video calls, and included EEG scans to see how participants were impacted. Three key factors came out of the research:

  1. Breaks between meetings allow the brain to reset, reducing a cumulative buildup of stress across meetings
  2. Back-to-back meetings can decrease the ability to focus and engage
  3. Transitioning between meetings can be a source of high stress

Michael Bohan, senior director of Microsoft’s Human Factors Engineering group, stated:

Our research shows breaks are important, not just to make us less exhausted by the end of the day, but to actually improve our ability to focus and engage while in those meetings.

Professor Jeremy Bailenson of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab authored the Stanford study and he made recommendations on ways to reduce the impact of videoconferencing:

  1. Take Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the Zoom window relative to the monitor to minimize face size, and to use an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space bubble between oneself and the grid
  2. Use the hide self-view button, which one can access by right-clicking their own photo, once they see their face is framed properly in the video
  3. Think more about the room you’re videoconferencing in, where the camera is positioned and whether things like an external keyboard can help create distance or flexibility
  4. During long stretches of meetings, give yourself an audio only break

In regard to the fourth point, he says:

This is not simply you turning off your camera to take a break from having to be nonverbally active, but also turning your body away from the screen so that for a few minutes you are not smothered with gestures that are perceptually realistic but socially meaningless.

The impact of back-to-back meetings can be seen in this image from the Microsoft study:

Microsoft Study Your brain works differently when you take breaks


The Stanford study is being extended with research aimed at producing a Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue Scale to help measure how much fatigue people are experiencing in the workplace from videoconferencing. Readers can contribute to the research by taking the survey here

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