Written By: Paulina Firozi and Allyson Chiu
Jeremy Bailenson was exhausted. It was a Friday in late March and he had just finished his first full week working from home during the coronavirus pandemic — nine-hour days spent glued to a laptop in a spare bedroom of his house.
Then a reporter asked him to jump on another video call for an interview. He thought to himself: Why does this need to happen on video?
It’s been nearly a year since he first experienced that video-call-induced exhaustion — an early glimpse of what millions of others may have faced since beginning to work remotely. Now he’s published a paper outlining why video chats may exact such a mental toll, and suggesting how you can reduce fatigue.
“There was a transformation in that we went from rarely videoconferencing to videoconferencing very frequently and without really knowing the parameters of what the costs and the benefits are and how to really think about that,” said Bailenson in an interview. He is a professor and the founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.
The peer-reviewed article was published last month in the American Psychological Association’s Technology Mind and Behavior journal. It draws on existing academic theory and research and says there are four possible reasons for “Zoom fatigue.” The paper, Bailenson writes, should not be perceived as “indicting” Zoom or other videoconferencing platforms.
“I am a huge fan of what Zoom has done,” he said. “I just think asking yourself, ‘Do I really need to be on video for this?’ is a nice way to approach a moderation strategy toward your media day.”
The paper was widely shared on social media, and reactions poured in responding to Bailenson’s analysis. Some suggested his paper essentially called for a return to phone calls.