Is Zooming Zapping Your Energy?

Recently there has been a flurry of articles discussing this issue of “Zoom fatigue” and why this might be occurring. No doubt, we are even more connected to our computers and devices than ever before. I suspect, like me, there are days that you are just “zooming” all day long, from one video meeting or chat to the next in addition to connecting with friends and loved ones. For me, I do prefer to “see” folks. And how fortunate we are that videoconferencing exists.  However, I bet you have also realized that being part of a call, or leading a video meeting, or trying to teach using Zoom or other video platforms is a lot different than conducting it in person. This is part of why researchers suspect videoconferencing is so fatiguing.

So what are the things that make video calls more stressful? In reading through the literature, there seems to be an underlying theme. Video interactions require a sustained level of focus and attention beyond that of in-person encounters.

  1. Seeing but not there.

From a communication standpoint, although we can see a person during a video encounter, we are not in the same physical space. This situation creates a perceptional disconnect. Although we can see the other person or folks on the call, we are not in the same physical space.  This mismatch makes it harder for us to read non-verbal cues and body language, and so we have to focus more, and that takes energy. Now do that several times a day!

In a study done by Schoenenberg, Raake, and Koeppe in 2014, they found that a delay as small as 1.2 seconds on a phone or conference call results in people perceiving the other person as less friendly or focused.  With videoconference, when there is silence or a delay, folks quickly worry that it is a technology issue, and they are then not heard or able to listen to what is happening. I know we have all had this happen. We are in mid-stream of sharing a fantastic, groundbreaking idea when everyone freezes on the screen or Zoom times out at 40 minutes!

Lastly, how we see others on the screen is size distorted. If we are only speaking with one person, their face fills our screen, much closer than we would be in talking with them in person. For group calls, everyone’s faces are in little boxes around our screen. All of this results in increase stress from having to spend more energy focusing and greater attentive consistency.

  1. A Window and a Mirror

One of the more challenging and stressful aspects of videoconferencing is that not only do you “see” the others on the call or meeting, but you also see yourself! The larger the group, the more stress. Now, instead of worrying about one person watching or looking at you as you speak, everyone can see you, all the time. Everyone has a front-row seat. Then, the fact that you can see yourself makes you more self –aware and self-conscious, and then you start noticing things about yourself, like that funny thing you do with your mouth when you talk. Since this is an unnatural aspect of communication, it can add stress.

Educator and psychiatrist Petriglieri describes it as “like you’re watching television and television is watching you”(Jiang, 2020).

  1. Always “on”

Another dynamic about video conferencing is feeling like you are always on. As long as the camera is on, and the meeting is running, you need to pay attention or at least look like you are. It is more difficult to look away, stand up, or check your e-mail because your face is right out there for everyone to see, the entire time, including whoever is leading the meeting.  Being “on” throughout the session can be exhausting because it requires more attention and focus.

  1. Compassion fatigue

Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor of organizational behavior and director of the Initiative for Learning Innovation and Teaching Excellence, and psychiatrist supports much of the factors presented here. However, he goes one step further concerning teachers. He calls it compassion fatigue. I know we are grateful that we have the tools, like videoconferencing, to transition from in-person to online teaching quickly.  But Petriglieri suggests there is something that gets lost in that translation. I know it does for me. Transitioning to online teaching strips away many of those aspects we love about in-person instruction. Petriglieri says that this loss can lead us to worry more about our students and our responsibility for them and their learning. Because of this, we are working harder and longer and making more effort to stay connected to their students.

Yet, we all know that it isn’t merely the fact that we are on Zoom a lot more. It is a combination of the stress we all feel due to COVID-19. The point that we are on Zoom so much is directly related to the fact that life is not what it was before. Life as it was before COVID-19 doesn’t exist. We can’t walk into our colleagues' offices to talk or go to lunch together or walk with a student who is having a hard time.  Our interactions have become defined and confined to a computer or device screen.

How do we reduce Zoom fatigue? 

  1. Limiting the number and length of calls - not surprising.
  2. Turn the video off. When or if there is the option, turn your video off and just use audio. Perhaps make that suggestion to the group.
  3. Move your video screen off to the side onto a side monitor if you have two. This change can help to reduce the window-mirror effect, and not require you to stare at the screen directly for the entire call.
  4. Build-in breaks! Just like in face-to-face meetings, if you are running the meeting, consider and schedule in breaks that let folks turn their videos off and step away from their desks, stretch, breathe, grab a snack and clear their heads a bit before coming back.

Knowing we are all feeling the stress of life with COVID-19,  let’s also remember to consider these fatiguing factors when planning our students' online learning. 


Jiang, M. (2020, April 22). The reason Zoom calls drain your energy. Retrieved from

Schoenenberg, K, Raake, A., & Koeppe, J. (2014). Why are you so slow? Misattributions of transmission delay attributes of the conversation partner at the far end. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. 72(5). 447-487.

Supiano, B. (2020, April 23). Why is Zoom so exhausting? The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from 


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