May 13, 2021

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Stanford study sheds light on ‘zoom fatigue’

3 min read


Researchers at Stanford University in Silicon Valley have confirmed what millions of remote workers already know: “Zoom fatigue” causes more stress than meeting in real life due to the “non-verbal overload” of endless video calls.

A to study by Jeremy Bailenson, professor of communication and founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, found that the underlying causes of zoom fatigue include “excessive amounts of close gaze” and “increased self-report when watching a video of oneself” .

Zoom users are seeing reflections of themselves at a frequency and for a duration never before seen in media history – and possibly in human history, ”Bailenson wrote.

Some of these problems could be solved with “insignificant changes” in Zoom’s user interface, he suggested, such as the automatic hiding of the “selfie” window that mirrors the user in on themselves after the first few. seconds of a call.

Bailenson also recommends that Zoom users themselves can make simple edits to reduce strain, like reducing the size of the video window so that other faces don’t feel so close.

More video conferences should simply be conducted in the form of phone calls, he added.

Bailenson’s new article, published this week in the newspaper Technology, mind and behavior, is billed by Stanford as “the first peer-reviewed article that systematically deconstructs Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective.”

It is accompanied by a separate, not yet peer-reviewed study that uses a “Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue” scale to measure impact. After thousands of people filled out a questionnaire, Bailenson said there was “good theoretical reason to predict” that women are more affected than men by seeing videos of themselves all day long.

Millions of knowledge workers around the world have now spent the best part of the year in spare bedrooms and home offices, as the pandemic and waves of lockdowns have forced offices to close.

Video conferencing applications like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet have exploded as a result. Zoom’s share price nearly quadrupled last year, giving it a market value of over $ 100 billion.

Bailenson says he thinks Zoom is “awesome” and “works great,” but has turned into a “punch bag” for frustrated office workers. “We can’t control a lot of our lives, but we can scream about Zoom,” he said in an interview with the FT.

He acknowledged that Zoom’s fatigue issues are pale compared to the daily trauma that medical staff face in overcrowded hospitals. Even in developed countries, millions of people do not have access to reliable broadband connections and many cannot afford the necessary equipment to make video calls.

Nonetheless, Stanford research points to the mental burden of being forced to sit in front of a camera and stare at screens filled with faces – including ours.

“On Zoom, behavior usually reserved for close relationships – like long periods of direct gaze and faces up close – suddenly became the way we interact with casual acquaintances, colleagues and even strangers,” Bailenson wrote. .

Bailenson said he tried to talk to Zoom about his findings but was “still waiting for this meeting to be scheduled.”



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