Zoom: why we get so tired after video conferencing 
Thanks to COVID-19, workers have been using video conferencing more than ever. From day-to-day work to meetings and after-work social catch ups, time spent video conferencing (let's just use 'zooming' for short) seems endless and it’s tiring us out.

Studies have shown that our brains are in overload during these video meetings, which is leading us to feel physically, socially, emotionally and motivationally exhausted.

Researchers have been looking at what the differences are between face-to-face meetings and zooming to see whether it explains why we are getting more fatigued. Two immediately came up: 

  1. the 'digital mirror': we don't normally spend long periods of time looking at ourselves, but on Zoom calls our eyes get drawn to our own image. When we focus on ourselves a lot, we overdo what's called 'self-focussed attention.' This makes us overthink ourselves, this leads to more cognitive load, and can lead to increased anxiety, and even low-level depression.  
  2. we are trapped in a way different to face-to-face, when we are able to move our core and our body more. Women in particular report increased feelings of being trapped.

People appear bigger and closer than in 'real life', so this could trigger physiological responses. But with the screen off, we cannot maintain eye contact with others in the meeting. So there are many factors to take into account. 

Stanford University has developed a fatigue scale, the Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue (ZEF) Scale, which anyone can take, to measure how much and what type of fatigue people are suffering. 

Interestingly, women have experienced much higher levels of fatigue; as do younger people and extroverts. Experts are trying to work out ways of alleviating this, including what organisations can do to address this. Older people appear to fare better. 

A few recommendations from the experts:

  1. reducing the window on the computer;
  2. turning the self-view off as much as we can; 
  3. getting up and moving around more;
  4. organisations having regular 'no-zoom' days

Learn more, listen to this episode of This Working Life: Zoom fatigue is real. Here's how to prevent it.

Stricter diesel exhaust rules would save many lives 
A substantial number of lives would be saved each year by implementing a stringent workplace diesel engine exhaust exposure limit, a study has concluded. Risk assessment experts from Utrecht University calculated the expected impact of the incoming European Union regulatory limit for occupational diesel engine exhaust (DEE) exposure on the excess burden of lung cancer in Europe.

In their paper in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, they note: “We evaluated the effects of intervention on DEE exposures according to a health based limit (1 µg/m3 of elemental carbon (EC)) and both Dutch (10 µg/m3) and European (50  µg/m3) proposed regulatory limit values. Results were expressed as individual excess lifetime risks (ELR).”

They conclude implementing the proposed health based DEE limit would reduce the ELR by approximately 93 per cent, while the proposed regulatory limits of 10 and 50 µg/m3 would reduce the ELR by 51 per cent and 21 per cent, respectively. The authors conclude: “Although the proposed regulatory limits are expected to reduce the number of DEE related LC deaths, the residual ELRs are still significantly higher than the targets used for deriving health-based risk limits. The number of additional cases of lung cancer in Europe due to DEE exposure, therefore, remains significant.”

Exposure to diesel exhaust fumes is also associated with other cancers, respiratory disease, heart problems and other chronic and acute health effects, so the total ELR stemming from the new exposure standard would be substantial higher. 

Of particular concern is that there is no exposure standard for diesel in Australia, despite it being classified as a top rated ‘Group 1’ human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2012.  
Read more: Roel Vermeulen and Lützen Portengen. How serious are we about protecting workers health? The case of diesel engine exhaust, Occupational and Environmental Medicine Published Online First: 11 February 2022. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2021-107752  More information on dieselSource: Risks 1033

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