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Podcast Episode 094: Zoom fatigue and exhaustion – how it negatively impacts women more with Dr Anna Carolina Muller Queiroz

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Zoom Fatigue is a well-documented phenomenon. It is more draining and depleting for women than men. There is a Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale (ZEF Scale) you can take the survey via https://vhil.stanford.edu/zef/

Dr. Anna Queiroz is a post-doctoral researcher at the Virtual Human Interaction Lab and at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. Written in collaboration with Fauville, Luo, Beilesnon and Hancock – ‘Nonverbal Mechanisms Predict Zoom Fatigue and Explain Why Women Experience Higher Levels than Men’.

During this discussion with Anna, we explore the impact of fatigue while listening on a video conference. It’s important to understand that Zoom fatigue and exhaustion has five different elements. They are emotional, motivational, visual, social, and general fatigue.

We explore the techniques you can use as a host and guest to improve the quality of the video conference – what to do before, during, and after the video conference to reduce exhaustion and fatigue.

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Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale – https://stanfordvr.com/pubs/2021/zoom-exhaustion-fatigue-scale/

Stanford researchers identify four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their simple fixes https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/

Transcript

Podcast Episode 094 – Zoom fatigue and exhaustion – how it negatively impacts women more with Dr Anna Carolina Muller Queiroz

Anna Queiroz:

When we see our videos, recorded videos, especially women, we are more judgmental of our performance on the video. We had women reporting more fatigue, and the mirror effect also higher for women as well. They have longer sessions of media conference and they are more close together, back to back meetings. And that makes a lot of sense, if we think that usually women, they share work with family care, they have less hours of quiet time to have those video conferences.

Oscar Trimboli:

Deep listening, impact beyond words.

Oscar Trimboli:

Good day, I’m Oscar Trimboli, and this is the Apple award-winning podcast, Deep Listening, designed to move you from a distracted listener to a deep and impactful leader. Did you know you spend 55% of your day listening, yet only 2% of people have ever been taught how? In each episode, we explore the five levels of listening. Communication is 50% speaking and 50% listening, yet as a leader, you’re taught only the importance of communication from the perspective of how to speak. It’s critical you start to build some muscles for the next phase in how to listen. The cost of not listening, it’s confusion, it’s conflict, it’s projects running over schedule, it’s lost customers, it’s great employees that leave before they want to. When you implement the strategies, the tips and tactics that you’ll hear, you’ll get four hours a week back in your schedule. I wonder what you could do with an extra four hours a week.

Oscar Trimboli:

The five dimensions of Zoom fatigue and exhaustion. Did you Know that there’s a Zoom fatigue and exhaustion score? My score is 35. This means 80% of the over 10,000 people who’ve taken this Stanford University survey have more fatigue after a video conference than me. What does that mean for your listening during a video conference? I decided to reach out to one of the Stanford researchers, Dr. Anna Queiroz, about the paper that she’s written in collaboration with a few others, ‘Nonverbal Mechanisms Predict Zoom Fatigue and Explain Why Women Experience Higher Levels than Men’. During my discussion with Anna, we spent time to understand the impact of fatigue while listening on a video conference. It’s important to understand that my Zoom fatigue and exhaustion score is made up of five different elements. And you’ll get a chance to do that when you take the survey. Five elements are emotional, motivational, visual, that component was my lowest score in the index. Next is social, and then finally, general fatigue. This was where I scored the highest.

Oscar Trimboli:

The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete. And some of the questions that really intrigued me were “How mentally drained do you feel after a video conference?”. “How blurred does your vision get after a video conference?”. “How often do you turn the camera off during a video conference?”. “How often do you use virtual backgrounds during a video conference?”. And how often, and this one I answered never, “How often do you use the touch up feature or any other filters to improve your appearance”. They even had a sneaky question at the end. It says “We’re testing whether people are reading these questions. To show you’ve read this question answer very important below”. Wow, that’s a interesting take on listening. I’m not sure if people were just clicking the middle option all the way through, or they’re trying to stop some kind of computer robot or fraud. I’m not sure who would take a Zoom exhaustion and fatigue test if they weren’t interested in the result. Well, I hope you are, if you look for the Stanford Zoom and exhaustion fatigue survey, you’ll find it pretty easily.

Oscar Trimboli:

During the discussion with Anna, we explore the techniques you can use as a host and as a participant to improve the quality of the video conference. We explore what to do before, during, and after the video conference to reduce the exhaustion and fatigue that you’ve all been emailing me about. If you’d like to learn more and access a range of resources, which includes our interview from episode 88, with Dr. Sheryl Brahnam, and where she talks about also how to listen on a video conference. Visit Oscar Trimboli dot com forward slash video conference. That’s Oscar Trimboli dot com forward slash video conference, where you can access a range of these resources. Let’s listen to Anna.

Anna Queiroz:

Hi, My name is Anna Queiroz and I’m a post-doctoral researcher at the Virtual Human Interaction Lab and at the graduate school of education at Stanford university. We published this paper entitled ‘Nonverbal Mechanisms Predict Zoom Fatigue and Explain Why Women Experience Higher Levels than Men’. When lockdown came and we were all working from home, we always started to feel this fatigue. Here at the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, we are used to Zoom even before the pandemic hit because we have teams all over the globe. When we had the lockdown measures, the number of meetings increased so we also started to feel this fatigue.

Anna Queiroz:

Professor Jeremy, the director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, he did the first step and did this amazing theoretical paper. He explains some of the possible causes of this fatigue. We decided to find if there was any measure, how we could measure fatigue? And we were very surprised that we couldn’t measure this specific fatigue related to video conferencing.

Anna Queiroz:

Our next step was to create and validate the Zoom fatigue and exhaustion scale. We ended up with 15 items where we are able to measure how fatigue we feel. Then we focused in several types of fatigue, general fatigue, mental fatigue, motivational fatigue, emotional fatigue, physical fatigue. When the scale was validated, we had more than 10,000 participants going through this survey. And we started to analyse this data. We wanted to understand what would be the mechanisms underlying this fatigue.

Anna Queiroz:

The theoretical causes that we had at the beginning with professor Jeremy Bailenson’s paper, we then investigated if they were actually the underlying causes of the fatigue. We found that yes, those were causes of fatigue. For example, one of the causes and the one that showed the higher effect was this feeling of being in a mirror all day. I’m talking to you right now and there is this, my video is there. I can see myself as I was in front of a mirror. And what we know from the literature is that when we see our videos, recorded videos, especially women, we are more judgmental of our performance on the video. We had women reporting more fatigue, the mirror effect also higher for women as well.

Anna Queiroz:

One of the causes of this underlying fatigue are the nonverbal cues. I can’t see you completely, I just seeing your shoulders and your head, and my brain tried to complete this image. And also in this small field of view of the camera, we try to send all these non verbal cues. We usually exaggerate our non verbal behaviour.

Anna Queiroz:

One of the other causes that we investigated is the fact that we feel sticked in the same place, because we have this field of view. Usually we are seated while we are in video conferencing. And imagine if you have several video conferences a day, one after the other, you just don’t stand up, don’t move. If you were in an office, you would walk from one room to the other to meet in one room and another place. So you move a little bit more than when you are just in your home having one video conference after the other.

Anna Queiroz:

And the gaze, so when we are here in a conversation, now we are just two of us, but sometimes we have several people in the same meeting. So you have several people looking at you at the same time as you were in front of an audience. And you don’t know if they are looking at you, or if they’re just looking to a colleague that’s in the meeting, but it feels like they’re looking at you. And from the past research, we know that receiving this gaze, like a lot of people looking at us increases our attention and arousal and that leads to fatigue as well.

Oscar Trimboli:

Anna could you explain to us, over 10,000 people took the questionnaire, who are the people who have responded to the questionnaire?

Anna Queiroz:

We had our first research published in several media, those had the link for the survey. One of the things that we were worried about is to provide a feedback for everybody that was willing to understand [inaudible] fatigue. If you follow that link, you can answer this survey and you can measure your actual fatigue. By day-end you receive a report with your level of fatigue. They were able to leave comments about their experience with video conferences and we run the natural language processing analysis that confirmed what we found about the mechanism. So women reporting more negative effects related to Zoom [inaudible] video conference fatigue.

Anna Queiroz:

We found that’s a numerical result that we have on both studies, both found when we were validating the scale and here with this sample as well that a woman, they have longer sessions of video conference and also they get more close together, back to back meetings. And that makes a lot of sense if we think that usually women, they share work with family care, they have less hours of quiet time to have those video conferences. They used to all of them together, so back to back so they can [inaudible]. And we found that this is correlated with higher fatigue.

Oscar Trimboli:

What are the implications for a host. If you’re hosting a video conference and you’re now conscious of these gender differences, are there any things you’d suggest that would make it more effective for a host to support whether that’s women or men, but in this case, women specifically with regards to reducing fatigue.

Anna Queiroz:

Yes, I know that this mirror effect or that women are more concerned about their images and they judge more their performance in terms of appearance, I can be flexible and not ask everybody to have their camera on. I can allow some participants to just turn off your camera if you don’t want to use it. Flexibility is the key. When we talk about some fatigue, we can encourage people to schedule meetings and have some minutes in between, not having all these meetings back to back. We can encourage breaks. If I know I’m having a long meeting, let’s just encourage it any time you need a break, just let us know, or just plan those meetings depending of the kind of meeting you can just blend breaks in between every 30 minutes, for example, a five minutes break, so people can move around a little bit, can have some water.

Oscar Trimboli:

There’s an element of the participants letting the host know “Look I can’t attend immediately at the beginning of that meeting because I’ve had three back to back”. I might be a little bit late and not feel guilty about that or encouraging the host to schedule the meeting at 10 minutes past the hour. So many of us as we’ve researched this, we know that in video conferences, you can have attention completely for maybe 8 minutes maximum and a 15 minute break every now and again, even if that’s to change the modality of the communication, move to audio only, moved to showing a video, move to breakout sessions with host. And I think encouraging physical movement is by far the best as well. I love that you reinforce the point that we make that drinking water every 30 minutes is crucial and drinking a glass of water every 30 minutes is critical to keeping the fatigue levels down.

Oscar Trimboli:

It sounds like one of the really practical things you can do as a host is to encourage people to move out of the gallery view. We encourage them to use the speaker view only particularly in group settings. That’s my hypothesis. You’ve done the research.

Anna Queiroz:

If the hosts can encourage participants to feel more comfortable. If they feel more comfortable moving their image from the grid, having the camera off, please do so. Understand that each participant has a specific issue with maybe their environment, with seeing themselves in the video. Flexibility is the key here because all of us, we are facing different environments. The setting, because you are in front of a computer, you need to be seated. If you can encourage people to maybe move their computers up, not everybody can have a standing desk where they can just move up and down the desk, but they can put some books under the laptop, or if they have a camera that they can move the camera to somewhere other place where they can maybe stand up during some hours of the day or the camera’s a little bit far. Most importantly, because we saw this high correlation.

Anna Queiroz:

Have shorter meetings schedule 45 minutes meeting, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, depending on what you’re talking about, doing that meeting and having these breaks. And as you mentioned, we don’t need to use video all the time. Why should I have video all the time? We could just schedule a call as we used to do several years ago, and we just lost this habit. So let’s get this back. And if it’s only two people talking about ideas, we don’t need to share visuals, we’re not working collaboratively on a document, so let’s just use the phone.

Oscar Trimboli:

Anna what’s three tips you’d give a host in terms of helping to reduce Zoom fatigue before, during, and after the meeting.

Anna Queiroz:

First it’s schedule less meetings. Let’s try to just have meetings that are really needed. Let’s think about what kind of meetings could be just an email or a phone call. So schedule less meetings, schedule shorter meetings. We don’t need maybe the whole hour, we can have less than that and allow time between meetings, not back-to-back meetings. Be flexible and allow people to just have their camera off during the meeting if they want to.

Anna Queiroz:

And for the participant, it’s close to that. So first try to have less meetings. If someone wants to schedule a meeting with you, when you feel that it could be a phone call, maybe just [inaudible] why not having a phone call instead. Also, be aware of your scheduling and do not schedule back to back meetings. Even if you’re invited to, just reply and say, can we have this 10 minutes past the hour. Try to have this setup, move your camera to an angle that you can move around a little bit during the meeting and after the meeting and be conscious about how you feel comfortable. So if you don’t want to use your camera, just turn it off don’t you use it.

Oscar Trimboli:

And I think the final tip from my point of view is please, please, please, the default setting for most group meetings is gallery view or group view, and you have the power to switch that button, switch it to active speaker because that will reduce cognitive overload, as you start to look at different faces and eyes.

Anna Queiroz:

I like your tip of having the speaker view. And also if you’re using the speaker view, just reduce the size of the window. So you don’t have this huge face in front of you because that’s when another cause of fatigue that we already know, that I have a monitor here and I have a huge face in front of me. It would be in a real setting, that means that the person is really close to my face and that increases arousal in our body responses and by the end of the day, of course increases fatigue as well.

Oscar Trimboli:

Anna it’s really clear in the research I’ve read, great 18 page report, there are five clear factors that impact various types of fatigue. Could you just take us through the five factors?

Anna Queiroz:

We found that there are five main causes of video conferencing fatigue, mirror anxiety, physically trapped, the hyper gaze, producing and interpreting nonverbal cues.

Anna Queiroz:

The mirror anxiety that’s this feeling of anxiety, of viewing your own image on the screen. We know that especially women, there are more judgmental about their images and they feel more this anxiety when they are seeing their image on the screen.

Anna Queiroz:

The other is this feeling of being physically trapped because I need to be in front of the field of view of the camera. I can’t move much. And usually we are seated on a chair for several hours a day, and that increases fatigue.

Anna Queiroz:

The other is the hyper gaze. That means if I have several people in the meeting and I have this grid view, I have this feeling of being in front of an audience and [inaudible] and doing that all day, it also increases fatigue because we know from past research, that when we are in front of an audience, we have an increasing arousal and that increases fatigue.

Anna Queiroz:

We have the nonverbal cues, both the producing nonverbal cues because I’m in front of this restricted field of view. We usually, and we use the mute button a lot on the audio and speaking, “Yes, I agree with what you’re saying”. Usually we will just nod our heads in a exaggerated way so people can understand that we felt [inaudible] sounds exactly like that. And interpreting nonverbal cues, everybody’s in a box during the video conference, I don’t have the whole picture, the whole body. And we know that as humans, we are used to in social communication to interpret the whole body movement, the brain keeps trying to complete this picture of only having this face and shoulders. And that requires more cognitive load and also leads to increased fatigue.

Oscar Trimboli:

That’s great to hear that a lot of the tips, the techniques and methods that we’ve been sharing with you with clients of our only been backed up now by the research from the Stanford team, a couple overlap really nicely. We’ve been listening and telling people during our Deep Listening community practise events, our Deep Listening Ambassador community conversations, and the client work that I’ve been doing.

Oscar Trimboli:

The first one space out your meetings. There’s no reason to start a meeting at the top of the hour, none whatsoever, or at the half hour mark. Start 5 minutes or 10 minutes afterwards. Consistently I hear from clients, suppliers, industry stakeholders that I work with, when I send them a meeting request that starts 5 or 10 minutes after the hour, they always comment on it and they always say, thank you. Thank you, Oscar because it’s given me a chance to collect my thoughts, to grab a coffee, a tea, a glass of water, take a breath and get ready for the conversation.

Oscar Trimboli:

The result consistently, they always say these meetings are more productive and paradoxically, the meetings are actually shorter. It’s great to hear the research is reinforcing again, the importance of hydration, of drinking water, at least a glass of water every half an hour. And if you get stuck or your concentration drifts off, maybe there’s a bit of fatigue going on. Just grab a glass of water and have a drink. Even when you get distracted, it’s a good way to mentally reset. If you’re a host break up the meeting every 15 minutes, how do you break it up? If everybody’s just speaking and speaking and speaking, change it up at the 15 minute mark, break it up. Maybe invite people to use the chat. Maybe invite people to switch off their webcams. Maybe ask people to move into breakout rooms. I think as hosts, there’s a great responsibility for creating an environment for making these video conferences really productive.

Oscar Trimboli:

As a participant switch gallery view off, go into speaker mode. If you really want do something, that’s going to make a big difference, go into speaker mode, reduce the speaker’s face on your screen to about 25% of the screen and drag it as close as possible to your webcam. That will help you concentrate because your eyes will be as close as possible to theirs. When it comes to the meetings themselves, be choiceful. If there is only two people in the meeting, then audio only is a great option. And if you do need to see a document, share a document do that in advance. It will allow each person to collect their thoughts. And again, paradoxically, when I’ve done this, the meeting goes so much faster. If you’re the host encourage participants on a regular basis, either just switch their mikes to mute or their cameras to off. Occasionally, if you want to speak, just switch your camera on. And that’s a really good nonverbal signal that somebody’s ready to have a contribution to the conversation.

Oscar Trimboli:

I wonder which tip you’re going to take away from today. And more importantly, which one are you going to apply in your next video conference? If you’d like to learn more or access additional resources around video conference, you can visit Oscar Trimboli dot com forward slash video conference. That’s one word video conference, Oscar Trimboli dot com forward slash video conference.

Oscar Trimboli:

Okay so a little thank you, if you’re listening in this far, I’m really grateful. And as a bonus, if you’d like some early access to the next book I’m writing around listening, I’m looking for 15 people to have a look at what I’m writing to look at it and provide feedback only for one chapter of the book. For you this means you’ll get early access to the book and it’ll take you about 30 minutes to provide feedback on just that chapter. If you’d like to learn more send me an email podcast@oscartrimboli.com that’s podcast@oscartrimboli.com with the word feedback in the subject line, put the word feedback in the subject line and send it to podcast@oscartrimboli.com. We’ll tell you what’s involved next. I’m Oscar Trimboli and I’m on a quest to create a hundred million Deep Listeners in the world, and you’ve given me the greatest gift of all, you’ve listened to me. Thanks for listening.

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