“We’ve all heard stories about Zoom fatigue and anecdotal evidence that women are affected more, but now we have quantitative data that Zoom fatigue is worse for women, and more importantly, we know why,” said Jeffrey Hancock, professor of communication in the School of Humanities and Sciences and co-author of another study — Nonverbal Overload: A Theoretical Argument for the Causes of Zoom Fatigue — released April 13.
The Stanford researchers surveyed 10,322 participants in February and March using their “Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue Scale” to better understand how video conferencing affects individuals. They focused on five specific nonverbal mechanisms that might cause Zoom fatigue, as outlined in Hancock’s study. Those five are:
- Mirror anxiety, which can be triggered by the self-view in video conferences that acts as an omnipresent mirror during social interactions.
- A sense of being physically trapped because of the need to stay within the field of view of the camera frustum to stay centered within the video stream.
- Hyper gaze, which refers to the perceptual experience of constantly having people’s eyes in your field of view.
- Attending to the production of nonverbal behaviors that normally occur naturally, such as head nodding at appropriate times or exaggerating gestures so they can be seen on the screen.
- Interpreting other people’s nonverbal cues, such as eye gaze, which can be distorted by the placement of the camera or the location of the video on a person’s screen.
What exhausted women most, the researchers found, was an increase in what social psychologists describe as “self-focused attention” triggered by the self-view in video conferencing.
“Self-focused attention refers to a heightened awareness of how one comes across or how one appears in a conversation,” Hancock said. That prolonged self-focus, he explained, can produce negative emotions, or “mirror anxiety.”
A simple solution is to change the default display settings and turn off “self-view.”
The Stanford study also found that although women and men have about the same number of daily meetings, the women’s meetings tend to run longer with shorter breaks between them — all factors that contributed to increased weariness.
“We see this gender effect across multiple different studies, and even after taking into account other factors. It’s a really consistent finding,” Hancock told Stanford News.
Other findings from the study:
- Introverts felt more fatigued than extroverts.
- Calm, emotionally stable people reported less exhaustion than more anxious individuals.
- Younger people reported higher levels of tiredness compared with older survey participants.
- People of color reported a slightly higher level of Zoom fatigue compared with white participants.
“We are working to understand what might be causing this race effect and develop solutions to address it,” Hancock said.
The Stanford study was recently published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior.