Stanford Scientists Identify Key Factors That Lead to Zoom Exhaustion

The past 2020 unexpectedly gave rise to an experiment of unprecedented scale and depth, the consequences of which scientists are just beginning to comprehend. We are talking about the transfer of millions of people to work from home and their forced interaction through video chats. Previously, it was a kind of leisure, another way of communication, but work requires constant being in one place and performing a number of tasks for a long time. As it turned out, humanity is completely unprepared for this.

Professor Jeremy Bailenson of the Stanford Virtual Interaction Laboratory calls this phenomenon "Zoom Exhaustion." He identifies four key factors that generate the most stress. The first is the need to maintain eye contact all the time. Trying to distract yourself, look away, move away from the screen is perceived as dodging work. In real life, a workplace, even in a cramped office, allows much more freedom, a person can perform many different actions, and not just sit all the time in front of the screen.

Further, the problem is in the faces of people themselves. In ordinary life, we also care about how we look, but we do not see ourselves during a dialogue with someone. And in video chats, the camera often shows the user's face in a separate window, which is very distracting. There is also the problem of the size of the picture, some faces may look unnaturally large or small, which creates psychological discomfort.

The third stressor is still posture. It is normal for a person to walk during a conversation, gesticulate, perform various actions, and even more so move during a working day. In contrast, video chat leaves only a narrow space, from which you cannot leave, otherwise you will have to explain your absence.

Fourth, people experience increased cognitive stress during video conferencing. In everyday life, we use a large number of non-verbal signals that help us build correct communication. In the case of video chat, this essential communication tool does not work, so we have to, for example, express our agreement with nods or raised thumbs. This burns an increased amount of "mental calories", leads to severe fatigue and provokes "Zoom-exhaustion".