Technology helps us in many ways; to streamline processes, simplify tasks, and boost the ability to collaborate. The problem is, many businesses have now overcommitted to digital tools.
Rather than streamlining and simplifying, an overabundance of digital tools can actually create more work that takes away from productive time. As a result, platform fatigue, a.k.a. app overload, has become a real problem.
Zoom fatigue paved the path for platform fatigue
Two big things happened in March 2020. First, many companies, suddenly forced to pivot to a remote work structure, adopted lots of digital tools to help ease the burden of the rapid shift. Two, all previous in-person communication moved to virtual spaces.
As a result, ‘Zoom fatigue’ became a hot topic of conversation. We all quickly realized that long days spent in front of a webcam chatting with colleagues were markedly more taxing than the same number of hours spent with colleagues in a physical space. But why?
The first peer-reviewed article that systematically deconstructs Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective, published in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior in 2021, found the following:
- Excessive close-up eye contact is highly intense
The amount of eye contact we engage in on video chats, and the size of faces on screens, are both unnatural. Normally, you look around the room, look down at notes, watch people through the window, perhaps see a bird fly by. You’re not just staring into the souls of others for hours on end. Long story short, it’s a stressful experience.
- Faces are often too big for comfort
On Zoom, colleagues’ faces are large and in charge. In real life, when someone’s face is large enough to be that “close,” you’re engaging in an intense situation. Spending hours a day in a state where your brain is trying to figure out why people are so close to your face who normally would not be is exhausting.
- It’s unnatural and uncomfortable to see your own face all day
The article explains that if someone were to walk around behind you all day, showing you what you look like in a mirror at all times, that would be incredibly uncomfortable. But that’s essentially exactly what’s happening on Zoom. You suddenly have a heightened awareness of the faces you make when conversing with others, creating another ‘processing’ layer for your brain to compute.
Overall, the cognitive load is very high and the situation is highly unnatural. Add the fact that mobility is significantly restricted when you’re locked to a seat next to your computer – no pacing allowed – and it’s no wonder we’re all fatigued.
To avoid all these issues, researchers suggest taking your conferencing platform of choice out of full-screen mode, moving your monitor further away from your face, and turning off the “check yourself out” mirror video. They also encourage those leading meetings to offer “dark” times, where participants can turn off their cameras for a while to take a break from intense eye contact. Employees should try to use wireless headphones and walk around when they turn off their cameras, to catch a break from the confinement.
While Zoom brought the fatigue issue to center stage, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Platform fatigue is garnering tons of attention in 2022
We’re hearing a lot more about this growing issue because it’s impacting employee happiness. Two years ago, G2 – the world’s largest tech marketplace – warned businesses that “more than half (51.95%) of all employees are unhappy at work because of the software tools they’re using.”
Given that metric, and knowing that 46.99% of all employees report using more software tools now than they did in 2020, it’s understandable that tech can be playing a far more significant negative role in your organization than you realized.
Today, 32% of workers (nearly a third) have said goodbye to an employer whose tech was a barrier to their ability to do good work – up from 22% pre-COVID. Also, nearly half of U.S. workers (49%) say they are likely to leave their current job if they’re unhappy or frustrated with the technology they use at work.