Stanford Study Addresses Zoom Fatigue and Potential Fixes

While many of our students are back onsite full-time, approximately 40% of ICCSD students continue to participate in our fully-online learning program.  As each of those students – along with our teachers, community members who spend hours at a time in Zoom meetings, and others – have learned, videoconferencing can be exhausting! 

I happened upon a recent article that explores the findings of a Stanford research team that was focused on the root causes of videoconferencing fatigue.  This reinforces some of our rationale for limiting the amount of synchronous instructional time, which has been shown to be far more taxing than in-person interaction. Beyond identifying the causes for Zoom fatigue, the team suggested simple fixes that may minimize the negative impacts on meeting participants. A summary of those findings is below, along with some ICCSD-adapted potential fixes.

Cause 1) Hours of close eye contact is highly intense

Suggested solution: reduce the size of the Zoom window to minimize how much of the screen it takes up, and use an external keyboard or other means to distance yourself from the Zoom interface. 

ICCSD adaptation: while some of our users have access to external monitors and keyboards and can follow the full recommendation above, those who can’t can still achieve this effect by minimizing the Zoom interface. If the host is sharing their screen, you can also completely minimize the “faces” grid, so that the only thing you see is their screen being shared. 

Cause 2) Seeing yourself on Zoom is exhausting

Suggested solution: Turn off “self-view” by right-clicking their own photo/video, and choosing “hide self-view”

ICCSD adaptation: Unfortunately, the option to hide self-view is unavailable in the current Zoom client for Chromebooks, though users of Windows or Mac computers will be able to do this. You can accomplish the same basic thing, however, by either a) turning off your video or b) following the recommendation above to minimize your Zoom interface, which allows you to see only one person at a time. 

Cause 3) Video chats reduce our usual mobility

Suggested solution: position your camera and keyboard to give you more freedom of movement

ICCSD adaptation: while most of our staff and student do not have external cameras that can be strategically positioned, the same effect can be achieved by positioning your laptop on a standing-height surface, such as a kitchen counter or a standing desk. You will have the flexibility to move more freely throughout the meeting, while remaining in frame if need be. 

Cause 4) Cognitive load is higher during video chats than during face-to-face interaction

Suggested solution: Take an “audio only” break every so often, and physically turn away from the interface. 

ICCSD adaptation: There is really no adaptation needed on this one. Every so often, it is healthy to turn off video and physically shift your focus from the Zoom interface to your surroundings. Since the audio remains on, you can continue to pay attention to what’s going on, and be ready to respond if needed, without putting your brain needing to engage in the taxing work of processing facial cues and other non-verbal signals, while also managing your own non-verbal reactions.