OTTAWA -- Whether it’s enabling many to work or learn, Zoom and other video conferencing software have been the go-to solution during the pandemic to connect from home for so many.

But is all that video conferencing making us more tired? 

Researchers at Stanford University think spending all of that time video-chatting is not just leaving us feeling exhausted, it’s causing something they’re calling “Zoom fatigue.

“Zoom is a useful tool, all of these video platforms are really important, especially during the pandemic,” says Jeff Hancock, professor of communication at Stanford University, and the founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab.

“The change that we’re having, from face-to-face physical meetings to this, does bring with it some cost.”

How to prevent fatigue

Disable Self-View

Hancock thinks these tools are here to stay, but he says there are ways to prevent fatigue. Start by turning off self-view, or the ability to see yourself during the meetings he says. 

Having a mirror-view of yourself, “can lead to something called self-focused attention, which psychologists have shown for a number of decades now can trigger anxiety, negative emotions, even low-grade depression,” Hancock says.

Zoom already has this feature available, look for three small dots beside your image while in the meeting, from there you can disable seeing yourself.

Move around

All of that sitting in front of a screen while “performing,” also causes you to sit still and “freeze up,” says Hancock. He suggest to just get up and walk around.

If you have a wide-angle lens for your meeting, you can be mobile and move throughout the room during your meetings.

Bigger screens aren’t better

Try to make the meeting smaller on your screen. A big screen shows whoever is talking as having a large head. 

“When your head is really big, it makes it seem like you’re inside that interpersonal space,” says Hancock. “What’s happening is my perceptual system actually thinks you’re closer to me than is comfortable.”

Consider a phone call or e-mail instead

“These video conference platforms are a tool,” he says, “and I think right now we’re using them a little bit like a hammer; we’re hitting everything with it. The phone works great once in a while or consider texting or e-mail.”

Hancock says he’ll often take a call while going for a walk outside.

It’s not just Zoom or video conferencing that’s directly to blame, says Linda Duxbury of the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University. 

“Part of the Zoom fatigue is the fact that the breaks we typically used to have, we don’t have anymore. We’re meeting a lot more often with people because we can.”

She says whereas before the pandemic you’d typically have a break while walking or driving to your next meeting, we’re now using that time to meet and work more. 

“It’s not just about Zoom; it’s the whole work/family separation and making time for yourself. If you don’t do that, trying to stop Zoom meetings isn’t going to help at all.”

Stanford’s research is ongoing, and researchers are looking for Canadians to participate and describe their Zoom fatigue and experiences.

To participate in the ZEF scale, or Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale, click here.