Four main causes of “Zoom fatigue” recognised by Stanford researchers and how to remedy them

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The mind and body are stressed by video chat sites.
Working from home isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, as millions of people learned in 2020. The loneliness and lack of human connections is true, and video chat platforms are not a perfect solution, as Stanford researchers have identified.

Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, recently looked into the psychological impact of prolonged video chats and identified four key elements that can lead to what is commonly referred to as Zoom fatigue.

  • Excessive amounts of eye contact increase stress.

Not everyone locks eyes with the speaker at all times in a regular meeting. Sure, a few will be, but others might be taking notes, checking their mobile, or gazing blankly into space. Everyone is staring at everybody else on a video call, all the time. People are still watching you, even though you aren’t the one speaking, which can be overwhelming.

What’s more, the face of a person can appear too big for comfort, depending on the size of your computer, which may mimic the feeling of someone being really close to you.


  • Seeing yourself during video chats is fatiguing.

Visuals are a one-way street in the real world. That is, you can only see the people or person with whom you are conversing. However, most video chatting platforms often show your face to others through your camera, which is unnatural.

“In the real world, if someone followed you around with a mirror all the time – so that you were seeing yourself in a mirror as you were talking to others, making choices, giving input, and getting feedback – that would be insane,” Bailenson said. Seeing yourself continuously is taxing and frustrating, he concluded.

  • Video chat reduces natural mobility.

It’s not uncommon for individuals to switch around a lot with a routine phone call or even with an in-person meeting. During a video call, on the other hand, you’re generally dealing with a fixed camera and a fixed field of view, which means there’s not much space to manoeuvre around, which is unnatural. According to studies, people perform better cognitively while they are involved.

  • Cognitive loads are much higher in video chats.

Nonverbal signals such as expressions and gestures occur often when speaking to others face to face and can have a huge effect on how the conversation continues. However, just as with text-based chat, video chat can lose a lot of meaning.

“If you want to show someone that you are agreeing with them, you have to do an exaggerated nod or put your thumbs up” he said. This raises cognitive load and burns more “mental calories,” making you feel even more tired after a long session.

Bailenson also gave ideas for minimising Zoom fatigue for both frequent users and organisations. He suggests, for example, taking video calls out of full-screen mode to reduce face size, using the “hide self-view” button, and taking a “audio break” every now and then “so that you are not smothered with perceptually plausible yet “socially irrelevant” movements.”

Image credit fizkes, okcm

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