Even as video calls have taken over people’s work and personal lives amid the pandemic, a new Stanford University research has found that the feeling of exhaustion that comes from a day of back-to-back online meetings, also known as “Zoom fatigue”, is greater for women than men.
The researchers found that overall, one in seven women — 13.8 per cent — compared with one in 20 men — 5.5 per cent — reported feeling “very” to “extremely” fatigued after Zoom calls.
What contributed most to the feeling of exhaustion among women was an increase in what social psychologists describe as “self-focused attention” triggered by the self-view in video conferencing, according to the study released on the Social Science Research Network.
“Self-focused attention refers to a heightened awareness of how one comes across or how one appears in a conversation,” said co-author of the new study Jeffrey Hancock, Professor of Communication in the School of Humanities and Sciences.
The researchers found that while women have the same number of meetings per day as men, their meetings tend to run longer.
Women were also less likely to take breaks between meetings, another factor that contributed to increased weariness, according to the study.
These new findings build on a paper the Stanford researchers recently published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior that explored why people might feel exhausted following video conference calls.
The new research shows who is feeling the strain.
For their follow-up study, the researchers surveyed 10,322 participants in February and March using their “Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue Scale” to better understand the individual differences of burnout from the extended use of video conferencing technologies during the past year.
“We’ve all heard stories about Zoom fatigue and anecdotal evidence that women are affected more, but now we have quantitative data that Zoom fatigue is worse for women, and more importantly, we know why,” Hancock said.
That prolonged self-focus can produce negative emotions, or what the researchers call “mirror anxiety,” Hancock explained.
A way to avoid this is to change the default display settings and turn off “self-view.”
Also contributing to an increase in Zoom fatigue among women were feelings of being physically trapped by the need to stay centred in the camera’s field of view, said the study.
What people can do to address this is to move farther away from the screen or to turn off one’s video during parts of calls.