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The toll of video fatigue

Alan Flurry

Something most everyone can relate to in our extended, present moment – Zoom Fatigue – has entered the lexicon to capture the emotional exhaustion, anxiousness, and worry that may accompany the high volume of virtual meetings. Kristen Shockley, associate professor of psychology, unpacks the HR impacts and how professionals can help in a new article:

Understanding the physical and psychological factors behind video fatigue is the first step in reducing its emotional toll. New data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicate that 41% of employees working at home during the pandemic feel burnt out, drained, or exhausted from their work, so addressing video fatigue—an obvious contributor—could go far in buffering workers from the full force of rapidly changing habits and norms.

Researchers cite several aspects of videoconferencing that cause fatigue by disrupting the fine-tuned, instinctual ways of communicating that evolved to help us survive. For example, the absence of nonverbal cues, such as hand gestures and other body language, requires sustained and intense attention to words.

Additionally, constantly staring at our image on the screen creates self-consciousness and increases the pressure to perform, requiring more energy than a simple interaction. The natural tendency to look into the eyes of the people with whom we are speaking is also disrupted due to the disparity between the position of the camera and the position of the eyes on the screen. As a result, we feel uneasy because it’s hard to read people’s responses and shift our own behavior accordingly.


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