Zoom fatigue

I summarize some recent research on the causes of Zoom fatigue and how to measure it.

What the recent research says

There have been a few articles over the last week or so about some studies coming out of Stanford University on Zoom fatigue — the energy drain that many people report after spending time in videoconferences.

One thing that is important to keep in mind is that the research so far is at least somewhat tentative: the peer reviewed study by Jeremy Bailenson only lays out the theory and the design of the empirical study; the results of that empirical study are still undergoing peer review. Hence, Dr. Bailenson cautions readers of his solo paper that they “should consider [his] claims to be arguments, not yet scientific findings.”

He presents four possible causes for Zoom fatigue:

  • The higher than normal levels of both the number of people looking at one and the amount of time under their gaze and the (perceived) smaller than normal distance from those doing the looking
  • The cognitive load from
    • Having to send effective nonverbal cues in an environment that makes in-person cues less effective
    • Having to learn how to read the nonverbal cues or filter out irrelevant physical gestures and movements of others within the environment of a teleconference
  • The higher than normal self-consciousness from seeing oneself on the screen for long periods
  • Reduced mobility compared with meat-space meetings in order to remain visible on others’ screens

The empirical study by Dr. Bailenson and his colleagues (Fauville et al.) looked at the experiences of samples of people who were in more than one video teleconference per day. From the data the researchers collected, they developed a tool for measuring Zoom fatigue, the Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale (ZEF Scale). The scale uses five factors:

  • General fatigue
  • Visual fatigue
  • Social fatigue
  • Motivational fatigue
  • Emotional fatigue

If you are interested in seeing where you lie on the ZEF Scale, you can fill out the Stanford group’s questionaire. It reports results in percentiles, so you can see how your levels of Zoom fatigue compare with those of others (while adding data to the researchers’ dataset).

My post in 2 weeks will be a video post on our YouTube channel demonstrating some possible ways to reduce Zoom fatigue.


Bailenson, Jeremy N. “Nonverbal Overload: A Theoretical Argument for the Causes of Zoom Fatigue.” Technology, Mind, and Behavior 2, no. 1 (February 23, 2021). https://doi.org/10.1037/tmb0000030

Fauville, Geraldine, Mufan Luo, Anna C. M. Queiroz, Jeremy N. Bailenson, and
Jeff Hancock. “Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale.” SSRN Electronic Journal , 2021. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3786329

Haridy, Rich. “Stanford Study into ‘Zoom Fatigue’ Explains Why Video Chats Are so Tiring.” New Atlas , February 23, 2021. https://newatlas.com/telecommunications/zoom-fatigue-video-exhaustion-tips-help-stanford/

Ramachandran, Vignesh. “Four Causes for ‘Zoom Fatigue’ and Their Solutions.” Stanford News (blog), February 23, 2021. https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/

Smith, Dale. “‘Zoom Fatigue’ Is Apparently a Real Thing, and Now Researchers
Know What Causes It.” CNET , March 2, 2021. https://www.cnet.com/health/zoom-fatigue-is-apparently-a-real-thing-and-now-researchers-know-what-causes-it/

Image credit:
Chronic fatigue syndrome by Shanghai killer whale
License: CC BY-SA 3.0