Why ‘Zoom fatigue’ is worse for women, according to new study

Why Does Video Chatting Cause Fatigue?.With people across the United States stuck at homedue to the COVID-19 pandemic, video calls have becomethe new norm for work and social interactions.Although a convenient way of remainingconnected, many are finding these onlinesessions to be especially exhausting.According to Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associateprofessor at Insead, video calls require more focusthan face-to-face interactions as people mustwork harder to process non-verbal cues.Our minds are together when our bodiesfeel we're not. That dissonance, whichcauses people to have conflicting feelings,is exhausting. You cannot relax into theconversation naturally, Gianpiero Petriglieri, via BBC.Petriglieri also believes that while silenceduring face-to-face conversations is considereda natural pause, that same silence is viewedmore negatively during a video call.However, the biggest contributor to this online stressis the fact that video calls are a massive reminder ofwhat has been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.It is the distress that everytime you see someone online,such as your colleagues, that remindsyou we should really be in the workplace together, Gianpiero Petriglieri, via BBC.In order to reduce “Zoom fatigue,” Petriglierisuggests only using video chats when necessaryand putting your laptop to the side in order tosimulate a normal meeting setting.When chatting with friends, give yourself time to transitionbetween your work and social personas. Havingthat buffer will help you feel refreshed and relaxed.You should also consider opting for smaller,more intimate group chats. Large group callscan be depersonalizing and make you feel asif your individual power is diminished

“Zoom fatigue” — that feeling of being drained at the end of an online meeting — is not only real, a new study finds, but it affects women more than men.

For their study, researchers at Stanford University used “Zoom” as a general catch-all for video conferencing.

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Once the world went into lockdown last year, billions of conversations that normally would have been face to face were instead had online. Work, school, holiday dinners and other events took place sitting in front of a computer screen.

“Given that video conferencing is likely to remain an important part of the future of work, and as a way to stay connected with friends and family, it is important to understand the factors that may lead to Zoom fatigue. It is also important to examine whether Zoom fatigue is affecting different parts of the population more than others,” the researchers wrote.

The Stanford team found that overall, one in seven women — 13.8% — compared with one in 20 men — 5.5% — reported feeling “very” to “extremely” fatigued after Zoom calls.

“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:

  1. Mirror anxiety, which can be triggered by the self-view in video conferences that acts as an omnipresent mirror during social interactions.
  2. 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.
  3. Hyper gaze, which refers to the perceptual experience of constantly having people’s eyes in your field of view.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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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.

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