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Zoom Fatigue... Moi?

Are you feeling on your own, out of sorts and ready to scream? You may be suffering from the dreaded... Zoom Fatigue.

Yes, according to researchers at Stanford, 'Zoom Fatigue' is real and can be debilitating. It's causes go beyond the obvious being isolated, shut in, staring at screens and meeting people only virtually. Here are a few of the hidden causes and symptoms with some tips to help you get over Zoom Fatigue.


Mirror, Mirror on the Wall = Yikes!

Canadian Jeff Hancock, founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab, has studied the Zoom Fatigue phenomena and shared his insights in a fascinating CBC radio interview. (Listen to his 5 minute interview at the 1:15 mark near the end of the program.) 

When we speak to others via video conferences like Zoom, not only are we seeing others, but our own face is staring back at us, which is so unnatural. This is comparable to holding up a mirror for hours on end and seeing ourselves reflected back.

Zoom Fatigue - Women Beware

He calls it ‘self-focused’ attention, which is destructive and has been known to lead to depression. In his study he found that women are more adversely affected, in part because we tend to pay more attention to our appearance. In addition to us staring at others in a video setting, others are staring back at us at the same time without a break.

Too Much Fake Eye Contact

In face-to-face conversation there is a lot of back and forth between making eye contact and breaking or looking away. But in a virtual environment that is much harder to do. If you’re speaking, the expectation is that you look directly into the camera, which conveys eye contact, but ironically you’re doing the exact opposite. This is another hidden cause of Zoom Fatigue.

Speak Now or... "Sorry, You Go Ahead"

Speaking over each other is rampant in virtual meetings. This is because virtually it is extremely difficult to read signals to know when it’s appropriate to insert a comment or to pause. This lack of timing signals has proven to be another covert source of Zoom Fatigue because we can’t relax like we do in a face to face situation.

Zoom Fatigue is Just... Physically Tiring

The other challenge is needing to be physically situated within the frame of the camera. In a face-to-face situation, you can move around naturally, turn your body to face others, stand to make a point and so on. So we are experiencing plain old physical fatigue that comes from having to remain on, be still and within camera view.

5 Tips to Cure (ok, minimize) Zoom Fatigue:

  • Get rid of the mirror effect. Turn off SELF VIEW in Zoom. Try this occasionally and you will find yourself less self-focusing and less critical of yourself.   
  • Vary your communication modes. The other day I scheduled an ‘old school’ telephone call. It took the pressure of us having to look our best. Also, we didn’t have to worry about the technology failing.
  • Give people permission to move around and turn their video off especially if they are not presenting. Give them the option to participate in whatever way is comfortable for them.
  • Don't overdo virtual meetings. A colleague was complaining about having spent 12 hours on Zoom meetings one day. That’s torture! Pre-Covid we would never spent that amount of time in meetings. (Often it just felt that way.)
  • Schedule a meeting outdoors, with weather warming up and vaccinations rolling out (observing proper distancing protocol of course). Most of us are starved for real human interaction.

How are You  Fighting Zoom Fatigue?

There’s no question that these new technologies have been instrumental in helping us stay connecting in these challenging times. But ultimately it’s about using the right medium for the message and the person.

If you are interested in measuring your own Zoom fatigue, you can take the Stanford University survey here and participate in the research project.

We’re keen to know how you’ve coped, and if you have any tips on minimizing zoom fatigue, we’d love for you to share in our comments below.

Posted by Joanne Blake – not quite tireless Zoomer and video conferencer

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If you need some personal help with your brand or connection skills, try our free Professional Presence self-assessment tool or see our Virtual Individual Executive coaching.

(Cat Photo Credit - "Sleeping" by kaibara87 licensed CC BY 2.0 text added by TP)

About the author 

Joanne Blake

Canadian speaker, corporate image consultant & business etiquette expert. If you're interested in booking a presentation, keynote or coaching, contact me. Based in Calgary / Edmonton, Alberta in western Canada.

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