4 Causes of Zoom Fatigue

Just as “Googling” is an activity akin to web searches, “Zooming” is becoming ubiquitous as a generic term to describe activities related to videoconferencing. Zoom fatigue refers to the exhaustion you feel after a video conference or call.

As working from home during COVID-19 becomes more commonplace in our daily lives, more people are logging onto popular video chat platforms to connect with colleagues, family and friends. Researchers have a warning – those video calls are likely tiring you out.

A peer-reviewed article published in the Technology, Mind and Behavior journal states that researchers have identified four ways that prolonged videoconferencing calls contribute to Zoom fatigue.

A. Intensive and close-up eye contact

In a video call, both the size of faces on screens and the amount of eye contact is unnatural.

In a normal meeting, participants would be looking at the speaker, taking notes or looking elsewhere. But in a Zoom call, everyone is looking at everyone else, all the time, even if you are not speaking. People feel like they have to make more emotional effort to appear interested.

Depending on the size of your monitor, you may also be looking at participants’ faces at a size that can appear too large for comfort. In real life, our brain would interpret this as an intense situation that will lead to intimacy or conflict.

The Solution

Reduce the size of the Zoom window relative to your monitor to minimize face size. Use an external keyboard to increase the personal space bubble between yourself and the grid.

At the same time, consider using ‘speaker view’ and not ‘gallery view’. You can avoid Zoom fatigue by focusing on the speaker without getting distracted by everyone else in the group call and what they are doing.


zoom screens fatigue

B. Constantly seeing yourself is tiring

Most video platforms show a square of what you look like on camera during a chat. But that is unnatural and stressful. Viewing our own negative facial expressions, like anger and disgust, can lead to more intense emotions than when viewing similar facial expressions in others.

Studies show you are more critical of yourself when you see a reflection of yourself. There are negative emotional consequences to seeing yourself in a mirror. Do I need to fix my hair, put on make-up? Shall I change out of my pyjamas, put on a nice top? What are those books behind that person?

The Solution

It is human nature to want to look at ourselves. However, researchers recommend we avoid Zoom fatigue by hiding our ‘self-view’ during the call once we have checked that our faces are framed correctly in the video window.

C. Dramatically Reduced Mobility

We walk around and move a lot more during audio phone conversations and in in-person meetings. We meet people on our way to class, chat with friends, move around during breaks. Our physical environment acts as a cognitive factor as we attribute certain meanings to specific activities. It subtly changes our behaviour, influencing creativity and problem-solving.

With videoconferencing, movement is limited in ways that are not natural. We have to stay in the same spot as most video conferencing apps have a set field of view, determined by the cameras we use.

The Solution

Think about where we are doing our videoconferences, the position of our cameras, even the furniture we use. The farther we are away from the screen, the more space we will have to pace or doodle in the virtual class, just like we do in real ones. Turning your video off periodically during the call is also a good idea if only to give yourself, and everyone a brief, nonverbal rest.

D. Higher Cognitive Load During Video Calls

Our feelings and attitudes are usually conveyed by nonverbal signals such as facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, gestures, and posture. In a face-to-face meeting, these nonverbal communications are natural and are processed subconsciously.

But in video chats, we need to work harder as paying more attention to these consumes a lot more energy. If you want to show someone you agree with them, you have to do an exaggerated nod or put your thumbs up. A sidelong glance at someone in class could mean something very different when compared to a person on a video chat grid looking off-screen to their child or sibling who just walked into the room. We feel anxious about our remote workspace and events that might make us look bad to our colleagues or classmates in the call.

The Solution

During long calls, give yourself an “audio-only” break. Doing this is more than simply turning off your camera to take a break from having to be nonverbally active. Also, turn your body away from the screen. Better yet, do one of the simple stretch exercises we suggest below.

Addtional tips for our Elucidation Learning students, parents and educators

  1. Use the mute button

    It is hard to focus on the speaker when you hear wrappers crackling, siblings or the tv in the background, and phones are ringing. Use the mute button generously and often to keep the focus where it belongs — on your listening and learning.

  2. Limit background distractions

    We cannot resist using that colourful background of the red bridge, but do everyone a favour – use a plain background or blur your surroundings, if you can. The fewer interesting things to look at, the more focus everyone can put on the speaker and the topic at hand.

  3. Take regular stretch breaks

    To keep Zoom fatigue at bay, we should get the blood flowing and frequently. Here are some simple stretches you can do when you have been hunching over your screen for too long:

  4. Care for your eyes

    Prevent eye strain with the optometrists’ “20-20-20” rule. Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Also, blink! Blinking is critical to eye health. It moisturises them and supplies nutrients. When we stare at our screens, our blink rate reduces. If you find your eyes are irritated, it may be because you are not blinking enough.

  5. Go outside

    Nothing fights Zoom fatigue like fresh air. Step out of your apartment. Go downstairs and look up at the sky. Or Look out your window at the horizon, as far as you can. Watch leaves rustle in the wind. Do a few stretches or take a quick walk.

  1. Limit multi-tasking

    Teachers are masters at multi-tasking. So it is understandable that when you are online, it is tempting to sneak a peek at your email, check the weather, and pull up resources on the spot. But to avoid Zoom fatigue, do your best to put 100% of your energy into your lesson and your students. You will not only feel calmer and more focused, but you will also do a better job.

For more ideas to incorporate in your online school day, check out some of these great resources:

Got a great tip for combating Zoom fatigue? Do share it with us by adding a comment here or below our posts on social media.

Alternatively, email your tip to us at info@myelucidation.com. Don’t forget to tell us your name so that we can attribute your contribution.

The Elucidation Learning advantage

At Elucidation Learning, our learners are like children of our own. We balance academic rigour with mentorship. Our educators model adaptability and resilience even as they combine high-tech and low-tech approaches to better deliver curriculum lessons tailored to meet the academic needs of your child.

For a free assessment of your child’s work, make an appointment with us.  You can drop in at any of our centre locations and speak to us.  Call us at +65.6464-0323 or Whatsapp us at +65.9738-8529.  Find out how Elucidation Learning can guide and help your child as we navigate the new education landscape together with parents.

References: Our reading list for this article
    1. Ramachandran, V. (2021 Feb 23). Stanford researchers identify four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their simple fixes. Stanford News. Retrieved 15 Jun 2021 from Stanford University website: https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/
    2. Cutter, C. (2021 May 4). Even the CEO of Zoom Says He Has Zoom Fatigue. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 15 Jun 2021 from https://www.wsj.com/articles/even-the-ceo-of-zoom-says-he-has-zoom-fatigue-11620151459
    3. Barnes, J. (2021 Mar 16). How students are fighting Zoom fatigue. Retrieved 15 Jun 2021 from PBS website: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/how-students-are-fighting-zoom-fatigue
    4. Johnson, K. M.A. (n.d.) Zoom Fatigue. Retrieved 16 Jun 2021 from Health Science Centre, University of Oklahoma website: https://students.ouhsc.edu/news/article/zoom-fatigue-1
    5. Huggins, B. (2021 April 29). 6 Tips to Beat Zoom Fatigue. Retrieved 17 Jun 2021 from https://thebestschools.org/magazine/how-to-beat-zoom-fatigue/
    6. Mulvahill, E. (2020 Sep 15). 9 Ways to Beat Zoom Fatigue. Retrieved 17 Jun 2021 from https://www.weareteachers.com/ways-to-beat-zoom-fatigue/