“Zoom fatigue” is real, and science says so

“Zoom fatigue” is real, and science says so

A large part of professional meetings now take place by videoconference, a consequence of the generalization of work. But some employees report feeling overwhelmed by these virtual interviews. A published scientific study shows that this phenomenon is much more marked than we imagine.

Austrian researchers wanted to determine the effects of “Zoom fatigue” on the physical and psychological health of those who say they feel it. They measured the brain and heart activity of 35 university students, using electrodes attached to their heads and chests, while they attended a 50-minute lecture. But not all the volunteers attended this seminar under the same conditions: 18 did so in person and 17 remotely.

Zoom fatigue, a phenomenon confirmed by brain scans

This experimental protocol made it possible to show that the effects of “Zoom fatigue” are not simply limited to a drop in energy. The students who followed the videoconference showed much greater signs of sadness, sleepiness and negativity than the others. They also seemed less attentive and less engaged. “Study participants reported feeling significantly more tired, sleepy and tired, as well as less alert, happy and active, after participating in the video conference, compared to those who attended the conference in person.“, summarize the academics in their article.

Although this study has limitations, it contributes to the scientific literature on the impact of the more or less intensive use of videoconferencing tools. Psychologists and specialists in communication and cognitive sciences agree that this technology disrupts concentration and the naturalness of the exchange, given that it leaves little room for spontaneity. Added to this is the stress of seeing different images of individuals on the screen. The multiplication of participants in the same videoconference considerably reduces the size of faces, which can create a certain discomfort or even a desire to escape.

How to limit “Zoom fatigue”?

This is why the authors of the mentioned study advise companies to think about different strategies to make remote meetings more pleasant. “Based on our research results, we recommend a break after 30 minutes (of videoconferencing), as we were able to observe significant changes in physiological and subjective fatigue after 50 minutes (of videoconferencing). In addition, the use of functions such as “speaker view” mode (a feature which simultaneously allows an individual view of the interlocutor as well as a view of all participants, editor’s note.) to reduce the intensity of the perceived continuous eye contact could prove helpful“, René Riedl, professor at the Upper Austrian University of Applied Sciences and co-author of the study, told the scientific journal IEEE Spectrum.

René Riedl and his colleagues urge companies not to minimize “Zoom fatigue” and to see videoconference meetings as a possible complement to face-to-face interaction, and not as a substitute.