July 29, 2021

Zoom fatigue: exhaustion from WFH and videoconferencing

zoom fatigue

The measures associated with the Covid-19 pandemic have led many workers to resort to teleworking, and in this context, to participate in videoconferences. However, several surveys show that they can be at the origin of physical and mental disorders, grouped under the term exhaustion by videoconference or Zoom Fatigue.

Teleworking has undeniable advantages, in particular in saving time (no commuting) or flexibility (organization of private life – professional activity). Propelled by the pandemic, way of working has finally won over a large segment of companies and their employees.

At the same time, the use of videoconferencing has exploded. These virtual meetings, relatively infrequent at first, have increased considerably, and specialists are warning of the development of a new phenomenon that more and more employees are complaining about: videoconferencing exhaustion, nicknamed Zoom Fatigue.

Thus, notes the medical journal Egora, a survey carried out in Germany (IBE Institute) shows that 60% of regular participants in videoconferences report suffering – to very varying degrees – from certain disorders which they associate with these meetings: drop in concentration, nervousness, impatience, irritability, headaches and backaches, vision problems, insomnia… The analysis of the possible causes distinguishes three categories.

  • Non-verbal communication. The lack of non-verbal communication signals appears to be a major stressor, reported by 70% of those surveyed. They cite in particular the poor body language and spontaneous facial expressions (facing the camera, the faces are as if frozen), which is detrimental to interactions.
  • The organization. The lack of breaks during or between these meetings is problematic. Many also complain about the overly structured nature of videoconferences, with no room for relaxation or humor. The lack of sideways is also a concern.
  • Technical factors. The majority of participants have to make an effort to hear well, or face connection difficulties, or have to deal with a poor picture quality.

Another study, this time carried out in the United States (Stanford University), points to a phenomenon called “mirror anxiety”, which mainly affects women. Often seeing yourself in selfie mode on the screen can trigger more attention on yourself and force forced facial expressions (mimicry). This negative feeling contributes to stress. This is further reinforced by the impression of being “trapped” in the field of the camera and by this feeling of “hyper gaze” on the grid of faces (we observe everyone and everyone observes you) .

In fact, a significant proportion of those who enjoyed these virtual meetings now say that they would gladly do without them, in favor of e-mail and the telephone, in the absence of “face-to-face” meetings.

As for Zoom Fatigue prevention measures, the experts recommend, among other possibilities, to limit these meetings as much as possible (in frequency, duration and number of participants), to prepare them well by sharing the necessary information upstream, to allow time to test equipment, or to plan days without video.

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