Why is ‘Zoom fatigue’ striking more women than men?

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Why is ‘Zoom fatigue’ striking more women than men?

While working from home has its advantages, the inability to add physical separation between the two has blurred the boundaries of th

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While working from home has its advantages, the inability to add physical separation between the two has blurred the boundaries of the work-life balance. Now, new research from Stanford University has found one aspect of remote work has been especially arduous, specifically for women: virtual meetings.

The anxiety and exhaustion brought on by an abundance of videoconferences, which have risen in use since the coronavirus pandemic forced a large number of companies to work remotely, has been coined “Zoom fatigue.”

The study was conducted by surveying 10,591 people, of which 68.8 percent identified as women, 28.8 percent men, 0.85 percent identifying as neither men nor women, and 1.6 percent declined to answer.

According to the data, women and men reported having the same number of meetings, but women’s meetings ran “significantly longer.” Similarly, men had more time in between meetings than women did.


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In previous Stanford research about Zoom fatigue that appeared in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior on Feb. 23, conducted in part by Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab and a co-author of the more recent study, as well. Bailenson and researchers pinpointed four primary causes of the phenomenon. 

The four causes were extensive, close-up eye contact; seeing one’s self mirrored in the video chat; the way video chat limits mobility to stay in the frame; and the heightened cognitive load videoconferences require for interaction.

In this study, women reported feeling “very” to “extremely” fatigued after Zoom calls 13.8% more than men.

These theories from the previous data aided researchers in implementing the exhaustion scale they used to survey the 10,591 in the most recent study. From this, the researchers concluded that a main cause of women’s Zoom fatigue stemmed from high instances of “mirror anxiety” and self-focused attention.

“Self-focused attention refers to a heightened awareness of how one comes across or how one appears in a conversation,” Jeffrey Hancock, a co-author of the study, said.

This attention and anxiety then manifest in fatigue, which can be detrimental to one’s work and mental health. 

“In the real world, if somebody was following you around with a mirror constantly – so that while you were talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, getting feedback – you were seeing yourself in a mirror, that would just be crazy. No one would ever consider that,” Bailenson told Stanford News, adding, “It’s taxing on us. It’s stressful. And there’s lots of research showing that there are negative emotional consequences to seeing yourself in a mirror.”

In order to lessen the effect of taxing Zoom meetings, Bailenson recommended implementing these workarounds when possible: minimize or hide the self-view portion, turn off the camera when one has the option to, if the camera can be turned off then free feel to fidget and be mobile, and take breaks from the screen when possible.

“Videoconferencing is a good thing for remote communication, but just think about the medium – just because you can use video doesn’t mean you have to,” Bailenson said.


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