Zoom fatigue: What it is and how to combat it

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TOPSHOT – A lower school substitute teacher works from her home due to the Coronavirus outbreak on April 1, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. – Her role in the school changed significantly when Coronavirus hit. She was previously working part time to support teachers when they needed to be absent from the classroom and now she helps them to build skills with new digital platforms so they can continue to teach in the best way for their students and their families.The middle school (grades 6-8) has most regularly been using Zoom and the lower grades have been using Zoom with parents. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

NEW YORK — If spending hours on video calls for work has you feeling a bit tired, you’re not alone. In fact, researchers have coined the term “Zoom fatigue.” It’s more than just exhaustion, and there are ways to help you get out of that virtual funk.

Mom, health care professional, and PhD student Kristen Wymer said she spends about eight to 12 hours a day on video conferences. According to Wymer, all that time on screens is giving her migraines, back pain, and too much awareness of herself.

“I hate seeing myself on camera,” she said. “I think as women in general we tend to be a little bit harsher on our outwardly appearance.”

Stanford researchers said many of us are experiencing what they call “Zoom fatigue” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Jeremy Bailenson said there are four main reasons: Excessive close-up eye contact, less ability to move around during long calls, being forced to interpret non-verbal cues during video chats, and seeing yourself on screen for hours.

“If someone was following you around your place of work with a mirror that would make no sense at all. Yet, for video conferences, we’re showing our real-time image constantly. And what the research shows is that this is fatiguing. This is draining, and it causes us to get stressed and have negative effect over time,” he said.

Dr. Bailenson recommended hiding your screen on a video conference, so the focus is on the person talking, not you. He also said not every call needs to be on camera.

“What I like to do is set norms in the meetings that we’re in,” he said. “I would say half of my meetings, everybody knows you go in with the video off, and you just have a voice conversation.”

Wymer now spends more time with her family to get away from screens.

“We take a drive and just wander out in the country and see the sunset,” she said. “For us, that’s been helpful to have that kind of different family time.”

She looks forward to more time in person with others, eventually.

The Stanford researchers have also developed an online survey where you can score your level of “Zoom fatigue.” The free questionnaire will tell you how you stack up to your peers in terms of the emotional and physical impact of constant video calls.

You can take the questionnaire here.

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