All About Zoom Fatigue

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Devayani Vyavaharkar
Student (University), India

All About Zoom Fatigue

The COVID-19 pandemic has established virtual working as an accepted new normal. More and more people have started using video conferencing apps to remain connected with friends and families as the pandemic progresses. The same is true of employees who have been working remotely.
Virtual meetings have escalated, with several happening daily, as people continue to maintain social distancing norms worldwide. The term zoom fatigue is of such significant concern that Eric Yuan, the founder and CEO of Zoom himself, has acknowledged the experience of fatigue due to never-ending virtual meetings.

What is Zoom Fatigue? Introduction

The term 'zoom fatigue' refers to burnout and tiredness experienced due to the overuse of virtual meeting (video conferencing) platforms. The term itself was developed quite recently as the world plunged into remote working and maintaining social distance as a part of COVID-19 protocols. Consequently, employees have become obliged to attend these endless meetings and video calls to communicate and stay connected with superiors, colleagues and subordinates. Several factors result in an individual experiencing zoom fatigue. Some of them are as follows:

Causes Of Zoom Fatigue

  1. PRESSURE TO ABSORB ALL INFORMATION Video conferences are draining since they push employees to absorb all information that comes their way. In regular conference rooms, one can always depend on colleagues to catch up with information if one gets distracted. However, in virtual meetings, this is challenging unless the chat feature with others is allowed. Alternatively, the employee needs to unmute and ask for clarification. The information overload occurs as the employee tries to attend every aspect of the virtual meeting, leading to fatigue and exhaustion.
  2. ENGAGING IN THE 'CONSTANT GAZE' In normal meetings, people spend time not just looking constantly at the speaker, but also at the presentation slides, their notes, gazing outside the window or colleagues. However, in virtual meetings, every person looks at every other person at all times. The amount of attention devoted to the listener in virtual meetings is the same as if the individual was a speaker. At the same time, these virtual platforms also allow users to view themselves whenever they turn on their videos. Looking at oneself for an interval longer than usual is tiring, demanding and can also result in negative emotional consequences.
  3. REDUCTION IN THE LEVEL OF MOBILITY - During phone calls and group discussions, an individual can move around while communicating with another person. However, it is not the case with virtual meetings. It is often mandatory to keep videos on, making the individual obliged to remain seated for the entire duration and restrict one's movement.
  4. COGNITIVE DISSONANCE - The term, explained by Festinger, refers to an unpleasant physiological state which exists when two cognitions are incompatible with one another. This incompatibility results in a state of tension that individual attempts to eliminate. During virtual meetings, incompatibility exists because although individuals remain connected virtually, they do not physically share the same work atmosphere. Zoom fatigue occurs since individuals have to spend more cognitive resources interpreting nonverbal cues given by others. This is challenging because it becomes difficult to read nonverbal cues when people are represented merely by small squares in virtual meetings.

Ways to Reduce Zoom Fatigue

  1. TAKING BREAKS at regular intervals by looking away from the computer and mobile phones can help give a few minutes of rest to the eyes, mind and body, which can be immensely helpful and rejuvenating. Similarly, turning one's video off for some duration during meetings is recommended.
  2. USING ALTERNATE MEANS OF COMMUNICATION such as emails and phone whenever possible can help eliminate the primary factor behind zoom fatigue- too many virtual meetings!
  3. By MINIMIZING THE WINDOW of the virtual meeting, one can reduce anxiety, and fatigue because of looking at others ceaselessly during such meetings.
  4. Similarly, one can use HIDE THE SELF-VIEW in virtual meetings to reduce the time a person spends looking at oneself during virtual meetings.
These are probably just some of the solutions that can be used to eliminate zoom fatigue and its consequences. Looking at the scenario worldwide, we can assume that remote working is bound to stay longer. Organizations can help in catering to the needs of their employees in different ways and help combat zoom fatigue that can reduce the efficiency and motivation of their employees.

⇒ Can you think of other causes or other ways of reducing zoom fatigue? Please mention them in the comments below.

Sources:
How to Combat Zoom Fatigue. Harvard Business Review. (2021, February 1).
Gadgets 360 Newsdesk (2021, May 7), Zoom Fatigue Is Real: Platform's CEO Eric Yuan Admits He's Affected by It. NDTV Gadgets 360.
Vignesh Ramachandran (2021, March 1). Four causes for 'Zoom fatigue' and their solutions. Stanford News.
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