Experts explain why Zoom meetings are so exhausting
4 min read
For many of us, working from home during COVID-19 has meant we are spending a lot of time on video meeting applications like Zoom. The effects of this have taken us by surprise.
Having giant heads staring at us up close for long periods can be off-putting for a lot of us. Never mind that we feel we should fix our iso-hair (COVID mullet anyone?), put on makeup, or get out of our pyjamas.

So why are online meetings more tiring than face-to-face ones?

People feel like they have to make more emotional effort to appear interested, and in the absence of many non-verbal cues, the intense focus on words and sustained eye contact is exhausting.

Face-to-face meetings

Meetings in person are not only about the exchange of knowledge, they are also important rituals in the office. Rituals provide comfort, put us at ease, and are essential in building and maintaining rapport.

Face to face meetings are also important mechanisms for the communication of attitudes and feelings among business partners and colleagues.

Emotions precede and follow all our behaviours, and influence management decision-making. Sensitive topics are often canvassed, requiring us to notice subtleties and display empathy.

How are Zoom meetings different?

Our brains can only do so many things consciously at once, because we have limited working memory. In contrast, we can process much more information unconsciously, as we do with body language.

Meeting online increases our cognitive load because several of its features take up a lot of conscious capacity.

1. We miss out on a lot of non-verbal communication

Our feelings and attitudes are largely conveyed by non-verbal signals such as facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, gestures, posture, and the distance between the communicators.

In a face-to-face meeting we process these cues largely automatically, and can still listen to the speaker at the same time.

But on a video chat, we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues. Paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. Our minds are together when our bodies feel we're not. That dissonance,…
Oliver Bauman
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