Feeling exhausted after a day of Zoom meetings? You’re not the only one! Zoom Fatigue is the new term given to the feeling of being drained and lacking energy following a day of virtual meetings.
In this article, we unpack a study presented in the Journal of Applied Psychology to help you understand why you might be feeling so tired after a day of Zoom meetings and what you can do to minimize the so-called Zoom Fatigue.
I found this study interesting because I’ve personally experienced a difference in performance and self-awareness when participating on zoom with the camera on, and with it off.
Why does Zoom fatigue occur?
The premise of the study is that Zoom fatigue is caused by the consciousness of one’s own self-presentation. Self-presentation is any behaviour designed to convey a particular image of, or particular information about, the self to other people. Self-presentational motives explain why an individual’s behaviour often changes as soon as anyone else is thought to be present or watching.
“Self-presentation is prevalent in social exchanges and, while there is evidence that it affords some benefits to employees, it is also a cognitively demanding activity, as self-presentation is a form of self-regulation that requires actors to carefully monitor and actively manage their expressive (i.e., observable) behaviour during social interactions. Importantly, demands associated with self-presentation have been identified as a precursor to fatigue and related deficits in self-regulation and performance.”
When a virtual meeting participant turns their camera off, the need for self-presentation becomes less important. When the camera is on, participants are more aware of being watched. This has been linked to greater impression management as they attempt to “achieve desired images in the eyes of others”.
How can you minimize the effects?
So how can we manage the fatigue caused by the feelings associated with self-presentation? Here are a few tips that you can use to help.
1. TIP #1: You don’t always have to have your camera on.
Being aware of your own video image on the screen has been linked to greater self-evaluation and self-focus which can be distracting and focus your cognitive efforts away from the meeting and further to the self. This can in turn decrease your concentration on the topic discussed at the meeting and lower your productivity. In order to avoid that, you can try turning your camera off during meetings where this is appropriate, such as regular team meetings. If your colleagues are mindful of your decision, have an open conversation with them and explain why would this benefit the meeting. (You can send them this article if they are not convinced).
2. TIP #2: Turn off your self-view, or minimize your view of yourself
In some cases, like formal meetings with clients or performance reviews, it is not appropriate to turn your camera off. What you can do in these situations is to try to focus your attention on others and not on yourself. It will be helpful to turn off the screen where you see yourself or try to minimize it. You can also try switching to different views of the meetings platform so you can see only the person who is speaking at the moment or minimize the whole window and focus on the presentation, meeting notes, etc.
Why is this important?
1. Impact on Performance
Feeling fatigued impacts a person’s overall wellbeing and it also directly affects their work performance. Being engaged and voicing ideas requires the deployment of cognitive resources meaning that fatigue stemming from camera use may not only make employees more visibly fatigued in their work, but also unable to voice ideas and stay engaged.
2. Impact on Women
The study tested whether women have higher self-presentation costs that make them experience more fatigue. The findings suggest a positive relationship between using a camera during virtual meetings and fatigue was stronger for women than men. It proposes that women feel heightened pressure to demonstrate competence while also feeling the need to meet societal appearance standards, which contributes to a heightened relationship between camera use and fatigue.
As women have historically been disadvantaged at work, and with the added pressures COVID-19 has created for women it is critical for organizations to understand that “camera on” mandates may be creating unintentional harm.Shockley et al.
There are some interesting ideas shared in this study tying zoom fatigue with a greater level of self-awareness when a person’s camera is on. I personally do find zoom meetings more demanding with the camera on, rather than off, in some circumstances. I can relate to the ideas proposed about being more conscious of my own self-presentation when the camera is on. There are some interesting considerations about self-image here, but for the sake of minimising fatigue, if you believe you are affected by having your camera on during meetings, try out leaving your camera off and see if it makes a difference. You might find that others on your team welcome the opportunity to participate in meetings with cameras off too.
We’d love to hear about your experiences.