Tired of all those Zoom or MS Teams meetings? The bad news first: they will continue to form part of your workday and are here to stay, as the Corona pandemic has caused the number of video meetings to skyrocket. Psychologists are also increasingly noticing the impact they leave on workers and employees. The good news: you can change habits to counteract the negative effect of video meeting marathons. For my tips on how to avoid unnecessary stress and master video conferencing, read this and my next posts, “How to Rock Online Meetings 1.0” and “2.0.”
Scientifically confirmed: Zoom Fatigue
Stanford University’s Human Interaction Lab calls the phenomenon “Zoom Fatigue “. The lab recently published a study on the subject, warning that the mosaic of faces we interact with at close range while tied to our chairs, as well as the difficulty of reading the nonverbal language of our interlocutors, causes stress. This is amplified because we are exposed to their gazes at the same time, constantly seeing our own image.
Mirror, mirror in the PC, please set me free?
The study´s author, Jeremy Bailenson, compares it to the discomfort in an elevator, in which the unwritten rules about distance to strangers are broken and the natural reaction is to look the other way to minimize eye contact and compensate for excessive proximity. “At Zoom, the opposite is true. In a normal meeting, no matter who is talking, everyone looks directly into each other’s eyes,” he explains. Not only that, but the virtual elevator is a giant mirror in which we see ourselves reflected. For Bailenson, it’s like having an assistant accompany us for an eight-hour workday, carrying a mirror in which we see our face throughout our entire working time.
Why is this negative? Constant self-evaluation can be stressful, according to the study. No field study has examined so far what happens when this exposure continues day after day for hours. “Zoom users see reflections of themselves with unprecedented frequency and duration (except for those who work in dance studios full of mirrors),” the researcher explains.
The solution is simple: Change your video settings so that you do not see yourself.
Tied to your chair
In addition, telecommuting employees are not always aware of the fact that video conferencing is a static form of communication that, unlike phone or face-to-face conversations, does not allow for simultaneous walking, which makes it less natural.
The communication effort is also higher than in a telephone call. The Stanford University study cites experiments showing that people speak at 15 % higher volume in a video conference and points out that the lack of physical proximity is compensated for by exaggerated head movements, by more insistent nodding, or by staring into the camera. Moreover, it is more difficult and thus an additional effort for us to interpret the facial expressions and gestures of the others.
Using an external keyboard to increase the distance to the screen, reducing the zoom window on the monitor, regularly turning off the camera when you’re not speaking, and moving around the room a bit, are among the tips to reduce this fatigue. In my next post, “How to Rock Online Meetings 1.0,” I’ll go into more detail about how you, as the host, can save participants stress in online meetings and make your meetings bangers.
Image: Chris Montgomery, Unsplash