A new study finds Zoom fatigue hits women harder than men

Researchers at Stanford University conducted the first large-scale study that examined the full extent of a phenomenon known as Zoom fatigue. Zoom is a common video conferencing platform used by businesses around the world. Zoom has been increasingly used during the pandemic as people have been forced to work from home instead of the office as we did in the past.

According to the Stanford researchers, their research reveals how the shift from in-person to virtual meetings has taken its toll on workers, particularly among women. Stanford researchers say the feeling of exhaustion resulting from a day of back-to-back online meetings is known as Zoom fatigue, and one in seven women experience it compared with one in 20 men.

The study found that 13.8 percent of women, compared to only 5.5 percent of men, reported feeling very or extremely fatigued after Zoom calls. The new research builds on a previous study from Stanford researchers that explored why people might feel exhausted after video meetings. The study surveyed 10,322 participants between February and March of this year using something they call a "Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue Scale."

Jeffrey Hancock, a professor of communication in the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences, co-authored the study and said the findings add to a growing understanding of how the pandemic disproportionately impacts certain groups of people. Hancock says that while there have been stories about Zoom fatigue and anecdotal evidence that it affects women more severely, there was no quantitative data to support the claim.

Researchers found that what contributed most to the feeling of exhaustion for women was an increase in something psychologists describe as "self-focused attention" triggered by the self-view in videoconferencing. Hancock says self-focused attention refers to a heightened awareness of how the person comes across and how they appear in conversation.

Researchers found that women answered two questions from the scale more often than men. Those questions were: "During a video conference, how concerned do you feel about seeing yourself?" and "During a video conference, how distracting is it to see yourself?"

The study's findings are consistent with existing research showing women have a greater propensity to self-focus than men when they are in the presence of a mirror. Prolonged self-focus can produce negative emotions often referred to as "mirror anxiety." Hancock says a simple solution is to change the default display settings and turn off self-view.