Zoom Burnout Is Real, and It’s Worse for Women
In March, a year into the pandemic, Jane Fraser, the chief executive of Citigroup, made a new workplace rule: no video calls on Fridays.
“Zoom-free Fridays,” she called it in a companywide blog post. “After listening to colleagues around the world, it became apparent we need to combat the ‘Zoom fatigue’ that many of us feel.”
For all the advantages and disadvantages of remote work, video calls have emerged as such a widespread pain point that the term “Zoom fatigue” has entered our lexicon — a catchall phrase referring to the tiredness related to video calls on any number of platforms.
Now, research from Stanford University published on Tuesday found that women experience significantly more Zoom fatigue than men. The research, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed, suggests that video calls simply amplify the longstanding gender dynamics in group settings and exacerbate an already wide gender stress gap, with women consistently reporting more stress and stress-related health conditions than men, according to the American Psychological Association.
The problem with video calls is that they’re unnatural and just not fun, Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, wrote in an Opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal last April.
During in-person meetings, people aren’t staring into your face from a close distance — some might be typing up notes, some might be reading. But video calls disrupt that natural rhythm, forcing everyone logged in to stare at each other, a phenomenon known as “hyper gaze.”
“From an evolutionary standpoint, if somebody was very close to you and staring right at you, this meant you were going to mate or get in a fight,” Mr. Bailenson said in an interview (over video, though no journalists were harmed in the writing of this article). And constantly being on high alert creates stress.