Zoom fatigue is real, Stanford study concludes

You're not crazy. And you're not alone. 

Zoom fatigue is real. Spending so much time online, even if you're talking to friends through video, can make you tired, irritated and emotionally drained.

 In research published this week in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior, Stanford University professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, describes the psychological impact of spending hours every day on Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime, or other video-calling interfaces.

Stanford University says it's the first peer-reviewed article to analyze Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective.

There are four major reasons, according to Bailenson, why Zoom-ing 24/7 makes you feel like taking a nap.

Bailenson stressed that his goal is not to vilify any particular videoconferencing platform – he appreciates and uses tools like Zoom regularly – but to highlight how current implementations of videoconferencing technologies are exhausting and to suggest interface changes, many of which are simple to implement, according to Stanford news. 

He also offers some possible solutions. 

Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense: On Zoom, everyone is staring at everyone, all the time. 

Solution: Until the platforms change their interface, Bailenson recommends taking Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the window. You can also use an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space bubble between you and the Zoom boxes. 


Seeing yourself during video chats is fatiguing: All that naval-gazing makes us critical. 

Solution: Bailenson recommends that platforms change the default practice of beaming the video to both self and others, when it only needs to be sent to others. In the meantime, users should use the "hide self-view" button, which you can access by right-clicking their own photo, once they see their face is framed properly in the video.


Zoom reduces mobility: Everyone can see you meaning Zoom calls don't allow for good multi-tasking, like you could do on a phone call. 

Solution: Bailenson recommends people think more about the room they’re videoconferencing in, where the camera is positioned and whether things like an external keyboard can help create distance or flexibility. For example, an external camera farther away from the screen will allow you to pace and doodle in virtual meetings just like we do in real ones. And of course, turning your video off would be OK, too. 


Cognitive load much higher in video chats: Bailenson said humans have taken one of the most natural things in the world – an in-person conversation – and transformed it into something that involves a lot of thought on Zoom: "You’ve got to make sure that your head is framed within the center of the video. If you want to show someone that you are agreeing with them, you have to do an exaggerated nod or put your thumbs up. That adds cognitive load as you’re using mental calories in order to communicate."

Also, there's not much body language expressed on Zoom and gestures could also mean different things in a video meeting context. 

Solution: During long stretches of meetings, give yourself an "audio only" break, meaning turn your body away from the screen. 


Want to find out your level of  Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue, or ZEF? T

Some of the questions include:

  • How exhausted do you feel after videoconferencing?
  • How irritated do your eyes feel after videoconferencing?
  • How much do you tend to avoid social situations after videoconferencing?
  • How emotionally drained do you feel after videoconferencing?
  • How often do you feel too tired to do other things after videoconferencing?

Take this survey and participate in the research project by clicking here.