With the shift to remote work in the past year, and the likelihood that work from home options will persist even after reopening measures begin to take hold, our collective reliance on video chat platforms is likely to continue. While they’re a convenient way to connect, video conferencing has also been a hard adjustment for many in the workforce. A recent phenomenon, “Zoom fatigue,” is affecting all levels of the remote workforce.
The contributing factors to Zoom fatigue are new challenges for many that are experiencing remote work for the first time. According to a study by Stanford researchers, they represent a dynamic shift in communication that requires a lot more mental investment, and a lot less physical investment.
First of all, Zoom conversations require intense, prolonged eye contact which is uncommon in normal dialogue. Next, the presence of yourself on screen as you’re conferencing with other people is unique to this new manner of communication. Third, in in-person conversations, nonverbal cues work to supplement spoken dialogue, but in Zoom conversations, all of that communication must be done verbally, which is increasingly taxing. When you pair these three factors with the fact that Zoom conferencing takes place in a small space that limits mobility, it serves to disrupt our typical movements, which can inhibit cognitive function.
If Zoom fatigue in and of itself wasn’t enough, research also suggests that different populations are more deeply affected by it. According to a Social Science Research Network study, Zoom fatigue is much more prevalent in women, primarily due to “self-focused attention,” which relates to being able to see oneself on screen during a call. Beyond gender, Zoom fatigue also tends to impact those who already suffer from anxiety, those who are more introverted, people of color, and younger people.
As reliance on two-way video calls continues for the foreseeable future, the level of fatigue is going to work to increase employee burnout. It may also cause a change in perception on video conferencing outside of the workplace. If everyone is stuck in Zoom meetings during their work hours, when it comes time for personal interactions, whether that be with family and friends or customer support, they may turn away from one-to-one, live interactions in favor of more passive interactions like chat or text.
What Brands Can Do to Help Fight Zoom Fatigue
If customers are spending the lion’s share of their day in and out of two-way video calls, odds are if they have to interact with a brand in any capacity, they’re not looking to have face-to-face, personal dialogues that contribute to their fatigue with virtual conversations.
For years, brands have relied on chatbots as a way to ameliorate the burdens placed on customer support by routing customers, particularly those seeking level-one support, to the resources they need to answer their own questions. In the era of Zoom fatigue, however, relying on an impersonal, automated form of one-to-one communication can be even more frustrating for customers. Recent surveys have revealed that customers don’t trust chatbots, and don’t feel like they address their needs.
Accounting for the needs of customers is important, but it’s also important to consider the lift on the side of the companies when determining the best forms of communication with which to engage customers. In the era of Zoom fatigue, not only are customers wary of having personal conversations with customer support over level-one issues, but the time customer support spends handling these interactions is much better served focusing on high-priority issues.
By offering proactive guidance at key points in the customer journey, brands are able to give customers the tools they need to solve their own level-one questions without turning to customer support, or worse, chatbots.
Proactive guidance can take a number of forms during the product, and post-sales support portion of the customer journey. From including key information at the right time, to document downloads that help inform customers, to instructional videos that help answer questions, multiple forms of rich media can be leveraged to guide customers through pain points in their purchase cycle.
What’s more, by offering this rich media, brands can help avoid contributing to the fatigue of virtual two-way interactions that now dominate the majority of their days. By putting the power in the customer’s hands, brands help alleviate their own support team’s burden for level-one issues while consistently offering customers the answers they need, exactly when they need it.