February 2021 saw the publication of this fascinating Stanford research study. In part aimed at cementing a ‘Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue (ZEF) Scale’.
Here’s one such definition for such general screen-time or webcam fatigue from elsewhere on the web;
“the tiredness, worry or burnout associated with overusing virtual platforms for communication”.
A trio of interesting traps. When tired you can never do your best work. Worry and you lose focus. Burnout and you stop. Efficiency and effectiveness covered here, along with quality and speed with all encompassing productiveness.
They cite ‘four reasons why‘ zoom fatigue hits;
- Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense
- Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing
- Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility
- The cognitive load is much higher in video chats
Then proffer a fix for each malady.
These include sitting a touch farther back from your screen. Reduce the standard given gallery window sizes. Hiding the self-view. Build in breaks (with video off, but generally too I feel).
Whilst applauding such ideas, I’m really not so sure some of these are truly the answer on their own though, as good as it is to hear their take.
When I help people for video calls that sell for them – after we get over the introductory and often light-hearted look at backdrop options and set dressing – the biggest initial personal, presentational change comes from them not coming across as a computer-generated rigid and robotic news anchor.
I am a fidget.
So perhaps by a touch of hyperactive fortune I find it both natural and normal to move around.
I never sit centrally either. Which helps ensure some level of movement. Whether it be from the unusual angle that the other participants are un-used to, or how I move when writing notes. And that’s before we get to when I stand and dance to decorate a piece of paper or white- or chalk-board.
I find my various flexing does not unnerve nor irritate others either. They actually come to be some kind of relief I sense.
So I’m very much all over their comment, “there’s a growing research now that says when people are moving, they’re performing better cognitively”. And I actively encourage such moving among others.
There are other tricks that in my experience this promising research misses so far.
One covers the issue on being diverted from what you want to achieve by trying to suss and feed off the social cues that are so easily shrouded over video.
Use physical gesture and vocal feedback explicitly sought. Votes, marks out of ten shouted back, hands indicating size. Not forgetting frequent use of mini-quiz questions and polls and chat panel response requests.
Articles abound with clickbait headlines such as ‘5 Ways to Beat Zoom Fatigue’. Not all have decent paragraphs, but at least that one offers a nice quintet on which to chew.
Finally, and maybe primarily, the best way to avoid such fatigue and not becoming a zoom zombie, is to complete more actions.
All manner of preparation and ongoing management contribute here. For instance, what documentation are you producing? I wrote a book on all this. How over video you maintain attention, perkiness and contributions of those you wish to persuade and mobilise.
You may need only to try one idea at a time, but video meeting improvement will definitely flow.