Understanding zoom fatigue improves remote meetings

Last updated Aug 9, 2021 | Running effective meetings

Understanding zoom fatigue improves remote meetings

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Have you heard people say that introverts must love working from home and remote meetings? Well it’s not true. Introverts suffer zoom fatigue (like everybody else), introverts can feel lonely and want social contact (like everybody else) and many remote meetings are not managed in a way that is conducive to introverts contributing. This article is looking at the first of those, zoom fatigue.

What is zoom fatigue?

If you’ve felt more tired from a zoom meeting that a real one, or you get to the end of a day on zoom and feel shattered, if you find zoom meetings de-energise you like face to face meetings de-energise introverts – you’ve probably suffered zoom fatigue.

Jeremy N Bailenson published “Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of Zoom fatigue” in Feb 2021. He gives 4 reasons for zoom fatigue. While his study didn’t explore introversion/ extroversion,  I believe that two of them are especially relevant to introverts

  1. Intense eye contact. When on video the amount of eye contact, and proximity of faces is unnatural. In normal meetings people look around the room and that’s normal. Some people I know have been criticised for even glancing to one side when they’re speaking/ being spoken to on zoom. Bailenson says our brains interpret this extra facial proximity and eye contact as an intense situation that leads to mating or to conflict! I’d add that introverts are more sensitive to dopamine which causes the introvert feeling of energy loss when with people. Add these two points together, it’s no surprise introverts are tired using zoom.
  2. Seeing yourself: On most video platforms you’ll see yourself during a chat, which is unnatural. Bailenson said “if somebody was following you around with a mirror constantly…that would just be crazy”. When you see a reflection of yourself, you are more critical of yourself, making it more tiring. Introverts are no more, or less, likely to be self-critical in this way.
  3. Mobility: In normal conversations or meeting we move around; this doesn’t happen in remote meetings, where we sit in front of the camera (without even daring to move our eyes listening to some people). Again, this is no more, or less, relevant to introversion. However it is a large factor to consider when you want engagement in meetings.
  4. Non verbal communication: In a typical meeting we make use of nonverbal communication, especially those who are “good listeners” (typically introverts). Since remote meetings become the norm, I’ve said introverts find them more tiring as they attempt to make up for the lower amount of nonverbal behaviour by concentrating harder. Bailenson’s findings didn’t differentiate between introvert and extrovert but he did say “it adds cognitive load as you’re using mental calories in order to communicate.”

Actions to reduce zoom fatigue

Articles on how to run effective meetings - Virtual or face to face. Click here.

Bailenson recommends we:

  1. Reduce the zoom screen size on our monitors so face sizes are reduced.
  2. Use an external keyboard, so we sit further from the camera and increase personal space.
  3. Adjust your screen so your own image isn’t visible.
  4. Move the camera further away, so people see you in a room rather than just your face and you can move.
  5. Turn videos off for some of the time in meetings.

To which I’d add:

  • Take more breaks during remote meetings, than face to face meetings.
  • Manage the discussions so that there’s less overtalking and spend time to check people who want to add to the debate get an opportunity (introverts will often signal they have something to say, but only once). If you want engagement from your whole team, sometimes you need to holdback the louder team members.
  • Don’t stack too many remote meetings back to back and get out for a brief walk (if possible) between meetings.

Other tips to improve your meetings which link to this article.

If you’re introverted you may like to read “Introverts thriving in remote meetings” and “introverts being heard in remote meetings”

If you’re running a remote meeting you’ll also find these 22 remote meeting tips will help reduce fatigue and increase engagement.

Running Meetings that make things happen

by Jon Baker

As cited in the Economist

For more details click here

Articles on how to run effective meetings - Virtual or face to face. Click here.

You may also like to read:

Or listen to: 

An interview with Helene Jewell of the International Association of Facilitators on how to improve your meetings.

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