Researchers at Stanford have identified four causes of what they call “Zoom fatigue”. They all resonate with me as someone who has a lot of online meetings,. (Though I’m not keen on the attempt to turn “Zoom” into a generic noun!)
I recommend reading the article in full, but the four causes boil down to excessive eye contact, always seeing yourself, reduced mobility, and higher cognitive load due to the fact it’s difficult to interpret body language. The solutions offered range from suggestions on how conference software could be adapted to taking regular “audio only” breaks.
Seeing people is great, and a necessary part of working together, but once the the initial greetings are done, it adds little value most of time, in my experience at least. Thankfully Microsoft Teams lets you hide other people’s video as well as your own. Back when I used to work in the office, I would often pace up and down while on calls with clients, and studies have shown we are more intelligent and creative when we’re moving. Now though, as the Stanford team point out, we are all sat in chairs, staring at each other directly in the eyes all day.
There is no doubt that video is useful when you’re meeting people for the first time and trying to form a connection with them, or for calls where you really want to gauge the other person’s true feelings about something. But for meetings that require excessive brainpower or creativity, it’s probably worth switching off video and going for a walk.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.