Solutions to "Zoom Fatigue"

Hello Integrating Technology Colleagues,

Before sharing an article about "Zoom Fatigue", here's a fact I learned recently from colleague Denzil Mohammed, Director of the Public Education Institute at the Immigrant Learning Center in Malden, MA: the founder of Zoom, launched in 2013, is an immigrant, Eric Yuan. As of September last year the company was worth $129 billion.  If you teach immigrants on Zoom, that might be an interesting, perhaps inspiring fact. (Source: Wikipedia article on Zoom Video Communications )

From Stanford News, February 23 "Stanford researchers identify four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their simple fixes"

It’s not just Zoom. Popular video chat platforms have design flaws that exhaust the human mind and body. But there are easy ways to mitigate their effects.

Before scrolling down to the research findings, what do you think the main causes of "Zoom Fatigue" are?







Four reasons for Zoom Fatigue (from the article)

     1) Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense.

     2) Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing.

     3) Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility.

     4) The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.

In the article are suggestions for how to address each of these.

What do you do to mitigate "Zoom Fatigue"?

David J. Rosen



In reading this article and the original by Jeremy Bailenson, I was horrified to realized just how unnaturally we have been treating ourselves for the past year. 

Seriously, if I invited you to participate in a year-long group experiment where we would attempt, for hours each day, to achieve high levels of meeting productivity or learning WHILE a) sitting very still and upright in a *mirrored* elevator, b) staring intensely into the eyes of several others from less than 2 feet away, and c) trying to communicate clearly...oh, and every so often one or more of the participants will be unable to hear or see - or just suddenly vanish from the'd be reporting me for human subjects violations in a heartbeat. 

I mean, I knew it has been physically and mentally challenging and stressful but not really WHY - and I had been beating myself up about how very hard it has been to put in a full 8 hours every day (with 3-6 hours like this each day) and then have any energy at all for anything else. 

Here is my summary of the author's suggested solutions for "Zoom Fatigue"

1) Set your camera distance and angle so that you can move more naturally, stretch, and still be seen. (Zoom encourages you to sit up straight and face the camera for long periods of time, decreasing even sedentary activity.)

2) Turn off self view, if not all the time, at least in less formal interactions/meetings. (It’s like looking at your self in a mirror for an hour or more-increasing critical self-examination of appearance and actions.)

3) Reduce the amount of direct eye contact and viewer face size by a) reducing time in full screen gallery or speaker mode and b) encouraging ourselves and others to take eye contact breaks. (Close up eye contact triggers a primal fight or flight response-the contact is too intimate.)

4) Take “audio only” breaks by minimizing the Zoom window or turning off your camera and closing your eyes; doing 1 and 3 above can also help. (Working to interpret reduced and faux nonverbals is significantly more taxing than in meatspace.)

5) Set fewer online meetings and plan for off camera time - for one-on-one chats, go back to phone calls (or as the weather improves, arrange to meet outdoors - addressing issue #1). The original author notes that the removal of travel and informal hallway chats from our meeting equation (plus the crisis element in our work this past year) means that we may actually be having MORE meetings, with fewer breaks than normal. Meetings have always been wearing - online meetings have just *magnified that* times like...eleventeen (a highly scientific number).

I hereby give myself, and anyone I Zoom with permission NOT to stare at the camera and try to keep yourself formally centered in frame. Myself, I am going to work on sitting back, stretching out, facing sideways, and putting my feet up during meetings. "Look away, look away," indeed.

*Note that the Stanford article is based on this 2021 original peer-reviewed article by Jeremy N. Bailenson: Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of Zoom fatigue

I am curious if people that play video games all the time get any sort of Zoom fatigue? In my personal experience and in asking all of the gamers I know that have to "endure" the many online meetings, the answer is that the only fatigue is in watching the same format being used ALL THE TIME online. For digital natives in their non-school time, the expectation is that there are multiple pieces of data on the screen constantly being updated and changed with attention being required to shift often to "keep up" with data that needs to be reacted to. Shift to our normal online meeting format of one person presenting information, the occasional chat comment, and that once in a blue moon call out to you for a response. How do our educators possibly compete with the digital entertainment worlds that have people looking at even tiny phone screens for six or more hours per day without fatigue? 

There is still a very real growth process involved in non-digital natives trying to survive in the digital realm for longer periods of time. I can relate to that physical and mental struggle in terms of physical activity for health. I know that I have been working on building up my couch potato body into walking every day and it has been a month and a half struggle to even get to a somewhat "normal" walking speed that most people might find relaxing for half hour to an hour walk. I had to build up to even my pathetic level of activity slowly and train my body to get there. For physical muscle development, we seem to have tons of work out videos, advice and methods for most anyone to build up our strength. How does one build up our digital tolerance/endurance? Duren offered a nice summary of the author's suggestions, but I am curious if others have strategies they have tried that may not have been mentioned in the article? 

Maybe the presenters could be part of the fatigue equation? I have spent tens of thousands of hours in my life online, and that likely is not all good. I have interacted digitally with more people than I could possibly count. In all those hours with all those people, fatigue seemed much higher based more on the content of what was being presented rather than the amount of time, time of day, or the number of digital meetings endured during the day. In those sessions online in which people were fully engaged and dare I say having fun, hours flew by and people were sad to see the session end. I would contend that there is a higher correlation between fatigue and personal connection to content than there is between fatigue and __________ (insert other "cause").

Obviously, much of the academic content we teach can be difficult to make entertaining for everyone or maybe even for anyone. As we work in the field to address digital endurance for all, should we look to how we build up physical endurance in sports? Are we training for more enduring the activity as much as possible similar to how people need to push through a boring walk/run (apologies to all my runner friends out there) or are we training for a specific sport where the focus is on the game skills needed with the expectation that endurance would build up over time playing the sport? If we need a mix of both, what does that educationally look like in our online experiences? I contend that no matter what the options are, our digital meetings can't address all the fatigue elements while maintaining the same presentation methods in every meeting. 

What different kinds of experiences are people encountering or trying? I'll share a few (good and bad) to get the ball rolling, but I would love to read more experiences from others....

1. Presenter(s) share power point and read it to the group with little or no interruptions.

2. Presenters share materials with occasional break out rooms. The usefulness of these break out rooms can vary from a much needed break to lovely discussions you wish would be allowed to continue longer.

3. Presenter is doing the whole dissemination thing, while chat is alive with active discussions that are engaging.

4. Presentations where it seems many people just turned on their cameras and speakers and went back to their normal life things. 


What are your positive and negative experiences you are encountering? Can we learn from each other some positive options we can all try?

Thanks Duren and Ed,

Duren, thanks for the reference to the peer-reviewed article by Jeremy N. Bailenson: Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of Zoom fatigue.

Ed, I like your asking what teachers and presenters might be able to do to help with the Zoom Fatigue problem. Here are some thoughts about that.

1) Variety may help - teachers and presenters can keep each activity to 10-15 minutes and then switch to one that uses a different approach; for example, if you are presenting for ten minutes, follow that with pairing students in breakout rooms to work on an exercise or project together. Of course, projects can have many different activities, and are often a good way to avoid Zoom Fatigue.

2) I did a 90-mimute presentation at a state conference last week. I have done this presentation before with a co-presenter, and we have alternated slides or small groups of slides. We also turn  off our video while presenting. Both of these strategies seem to help. This time, presenting alone, I did two things that may have helped with Zoom fatigue -- and engagement. I told participants I wanted to organize the presentation to meet their interests and needs. I asked them to tell us -- in their introductions -- what they wanted to learn in the session and what their questions were.  I repeatedly asked participants to introduce themselves and to pay attention to those two aspects of their introduction. Many did. About 15 minutes into the presentation, I copied their questions and comments from the chat into the presentation itself. Then I stopped presenting from my plan and focused on their questions. I un-muted the participants so they could explain their questions and comments.

I also stopped talking for ten minutes and asked participants to skim through a 40 page document -- the basis for the presentation -- and find something they wanted to know more about or ask me something about. I had no idea if they would do that, but many did. What could have been a dry, zoom-fatiguing experience seemed to me, at least, to be highly-engaging and perhaps less-fatiguing.

3) A teacher or presenter could (for example, I could!) provide short exercise breaks every half hour. We could ask participants or students to stand, and do some simple neck, shoulder, hand and other flex exercises. Anyone do that? If you have a favorite set of these, please share them here.

David J. Rosen


Hello colleagues, This is a great topic. Thanks for introducing it, David.

It's super interesting, Ed, to think about how video games are different in terms of fatigue from online synchronous classes or training. I wonder what Jeremy N. Bailenson or other researchers might have to say about that question. (Thanks for sharing Bailenson's fascinating article, Duren!)

As for striving to include a variety of activities, I think this is key. The way David described his recent training sounds excellent to me. David invited the participants to engage based on what was of particular interest to them. What could be more effective than that?!

In the classroom, it may not always be possible to design the online class the way David designed his training, but I believe we can work towards that goal. You reminded me, David, that it is often important that we give learners time for independent study. The class does not have to be constant interaction; some time can be set aside for quiet study. That being said, we do want to strategically engage learners interactively during the majority of class time, and we can do so through the use of various tools and strategies, particularly breakout rooms. 

One tool I use routinely for interactive conversations with advanced English learners who are preparing to enter training is Here's an example of an Anticipation Guide activity we used in class today before reading an article about the Emancipation Proclamation. Learners engaged in this activity in breakout rooms with one or two partners. The task is to read through each statement and infer or predict whether the statement is true or false. When reading the text about the Emancipation Proclamation, learners focus on identifying the evidence for each statement. 

I'd love to hear from others about Zoom fatigue and how to effectively mitigate some of it!

Take care, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP