My Top 10 Tips to a Better Zoom Call and the Opportunity to Help Researchers at Stanford University.


Healthy homemade lunches, no commute, and being able to sleep in a little longer, who would want to give that up? Many employees may never return to their office and employers are downsizing their commercial space. People who are working from home understand the importance of an ergonomic desk setup. But what about the individual whose work never revolved around a computer? When I’m speaking to quilt guilds, I’m so impressed with how we have all learned the the ins and outs of online meetings and virtual workshops. ( and for me - time zones ugh)

Professor Jeremy Bailenson is the founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL). He has examined the psychological consequences of spending hours per day on virtual platforms and has identified these four factors as contributing to Zoom fatigue.

1) Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact is highly intense.

2) Seeing yourself during video chats constantly in real-time is fatiguing.

3) Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility.

4) The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.

You can read more about his work here

If you are attending more online events you might be interested in sharing your virtual experiences with the researchers at Stanford University. They have devised the Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale, or ZEF Scale, to help measure how much fatigue people are experiencing from videoconferencing. To participate in their research, simply complete the Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale, it's easy just click here

These were my results:

The ZEF score ranges from 15 (less fatigue) to 75 (more fatigue). Your overall ZEF score is 26 , which puts you in the 7th percentile for zoom fatigue. This means that about 93% of people have more fatigue after videoconferencing than you.

I don't think my results are typical because I am normally presenting and not just listening. When I finish I am usually keyed up as I've just been interacting with people who have an interest in my topic. There's a lot of information to take in during my lectures and when I finish I can see some overwhelmed faces, just from listening and learning. That's why I remind people that they will receive handouts so they don't need to take notes.

I often think of my late mother during these times. She never needed a cell phone or a computer, but I know that her children and grandchildren would have helped her get “zoom ready" to participate in these exciting times.


Here are my top 10 tips for a better zoom call:

  1. Rise Up - Before you think about anything else - raise your screen to eye level. This helps prevent neck strain, think prehab instead of rehab. A wire shelving unit ( as pictured above) works well to hold your laptop or monitor; you can get creative and use a larger wooden box or storage bin to raise it even higher for a DIY standing desk. If you're really keen, you can watch from your treadmill with a few simple adjustments. Have a look at the photo of my DIY treadmill at Createwhimsy.com or there's an older post on my Instagram account.

  2. Video Off - Turn your video off when your lecturer is presenting. This allows you to get comfy, put your feet up, and not worry about others seeing you. It will also improve the clarity of the call. I know some teachers don't like speaking to an empty room, but don't worry there will always be a few faces left for them to speak to. I am always struggling to fit all of my information into the allotted time, so I usually have the gallery of students minimized during my powerpoint, I find it less distracting.

  3. Feet Up - For the best results, elevate your legs high enough to be above your heart, but that's not the most practical while watching a presentation on the ergonomics of sewing. Personally, I usually just use the bar stool I use at my longarm machine. Footstools help too. They not only raise your feet , helping with circulation but also allow shorter people to plant their feet on a firm surface when seated. They also help when standing. If you lean towards placing more of your body weight on one leg. A footstool allows you to evenly distribute your weight, shifting your center of gravity from your supporting leg and allowing you to take some weight off the load-bearing hip joint. Works at your ironing board as well,.

  4. Popcorn Ready - Have a snack at the ready. Olives are perfect; they fill you up, feed your brain, lubricate the most important machine in your sewing room and they don’t leave crumbs stuck in your teeth.

  5. Drink Up - Don’t forget your favourite herbal tea or glass of water to stay focused and headache free. H2O is crucial to staying sharp, it affects how well signals are transmitted and received in the brain. (Wittbrodt,2018). It also forces us to get up and walk head to the loo at break time.

  6. Heads and hands Up - Some people like to knit or hand-stitch while they learn, which is great! However, as a teacher, I often see makers with their heads bent forward in the dark. Use a big pillow to raise your work up to you or make a Lap Desk. I've provided a free pattern here.

  7. Look Up - Give your eyes a break, use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes look 20 feet away from the screen for 20 seconds. Consider trying blue light glasses (the lenses are actually yellow) . They help protect your eyes by blocking harsh lighting from digital devices. The light that comes from computer screens also influences the human circadian system, leading to disrupted sleep. Set your device to dim between sundown and sunup.

  8. Take a proper break from the computer during an online class. When your teacher announces a scheduled break – take it. Ideally your instructor will mute and turn off their video as well. Then attendees can’t ask questions as chatting isn’t really a break. Get up and move, you will learn more after physical activity. (John J. Ratey 2013)

  9. Relax and remember we are all learning; we all make mistakes. Virtual learning is here to stay. Instead of cancelling that February meeting due to snow, we will simply pivot and meet online.

  10. Remember to Shake, Rattle and Roll. It’s easy , just shake your hands, rattle the floorboards and roll your shoulders.