The so-called Zoom fatigue is not just a Zoom problem: the most popular video chat and video conferencing platforms have design flaws that wear down the human mind and body.

To highlight this is a study by Stanford University that not only identified the four causes of this effort from Zoom, but also identified simple ways to mitigate its effects.

The recent boom in video conferencing led the communication professor Jeremy Bailenson, founder director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), to examine the psychological consequences of spending hours a day on these platforms.

In the first peer-reviewed article that systematically analyzes Zoom’s fatigue from a psychological perspective, published in Technology magazine, Mind and Behavior on February 23, Bailenson evaluated Zoom in its individual technical aspects, identifying four consequences of the c

Professor Bailenson stressed that his goal is not to throw discredit on a particular videoconference platform: he himself appreciates and regularly uses tools such as Zoom.

The aim is rather to highlight how the current implementations of video conferencing technologies are exhausting and to suggest interface changes, many of which are easy to implement.

In addition, the intention is to provide suggestions for users and organizations on how to exploit the current features of video conferencing to reduce fatigue.

The Four Causes of Zoom Fatigue

1) An excessive amount of close eye contact

Both the amount of visual contact in video conferencing and the size of the faces on the screens is unnatural, warns Jeremy Bailenson. In a normal meeting, people look at the speaker, take notes or look elsewhere, while in calls with Zoom everyone looks at everyone, all the time. The amount of visual contact has dramatically increased. According to Bailenson, the social anxiety to speak in public is one of the greatest phobias that exists in our population: when we are there and everyone stares at us, it is a stressful experience.

Another source of stress is that, depending on the size of the monitor and if you use an external display, the faces in the video conferencing can appear too large for your level of comfort. In general, for most configurations, in two-way conversations you can see the face of the interlocutor at a dimension that simulates a personal space that normally you experience when you are more intimate with someone, Bailenson highlighted. When someone’s face is so close to ours in real life, our brain interprets it as an intense situation that generates a state of hyper-excitement.

The solution that Bailenson suggests is as follows: Until the platforms change their interface, the advice is not to use Zoom full screen and to reduce the size of the Zoom window compared to the monitor, to minimize the size of the face, and to use

2) Being constantly seen during video conferencing is tiring

Most video platforms show a box of how we appear on the camera during a chat, but this is unnatural, Bailenson pointed out, who cited studies that show that when you see a reflection of yourself, you are more critical of yourself. Many of us now see each other in video chat and video conferencing for many hours every day, constantly and in real time, and that is stressful.

To mitigate this effect, Bailenson recommends that platforms change the default setting of transmitting the video to themselves and others when it is only sent to others. Meanwhile, users should disable the view of themselves.

3) Video chats drastically reduce usual mobility

Personal and audio phone conversations allow humans to walk and move. But with video conferencing, most cameras have a fixed field of view, which means that a person should generally stay in the same spot. Movement is limited in ways that are not natural. Bailenson says that there is a growing search now that says that when people move, they make better cognitive.

As a solution to this problem, Bailenson recommends that people pay more attention to the room where they make video conferencing, where the camera is located, and whether things like an external keyboard can help create distance or flexibility. For example, an external camera further away from the screen will allow you to walk and take notes in virtual meetings just like we do in real ones. Furthermore, switching off your video periodically during meetings is a good basic rule to be established for teams, only to allow a short non-verbal rest.

4) Cognitive load is much higher in video chats

Bailenson notes that in normal face-to-face interaction, non-verbal communication is natural enough and each of us does and naturally interprets non-verbal gestures and cues subconsciously. But in video chats, we need to work harder to send and receive signals. This adds a cognitive load because you use more mental energy to communicate.

As a solution, Bailenson suggests that during the longer sections of the meetings, you take a break This does not just mean turning off the camera to take a break from not having to be active verbally, but also removing the body from the screen, Bailenson pointed out.

Further details and explanations on Professor Jeremy Bailenson’s study are available on the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab website.

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