Professionals are spending more time on Zoom and video calls than ever before, staring at their own faces for several hours a day. This reality has led to a new condition called “Zoom dysmorphia,” which is unlikely to disappear with the return to the office. Zoom dysmorphia is just one of the ways that the pandemic is still causing mental health challenges.

What is Zoom Dysmorphia?

Zoom dysmorphia is a condition where a person has an unrealistically negative view of their appearance resulting from viewing their webcam image during video conferences. The nature of webcam technology is partly to blame.

Computer cameras sit near a person’s face, portraying an image far closer in proximity than would occur if an employee was standing and conversing with their colleagues in person.

Why Does it Happen?

Studies indicate that when people view photos taken at 12 inches from a face, they perceive the subject’s nose as 30% larger than in a photo taken at a distance of five feet.

Cameras used for Zoom are also often placed to look up at a person. Anyone who commonly takes selfies will advise against this particular angle. In fact, the purpose of a selfie stick is to take photographs from above and at a distance, which is the direct opposite of what most computer cameras show on Zoom.

The cameras in computers can cause further issues because they create a distorted effect like a “funhouse mirror” that makes people’s eyes look smaller and their noses appear larger. Add bad lighting to the mix, and the result is a particularly unflattering image.

When people look at themselves through the distorted view of their webcams for hours every day, they can develop severe and sometimes debilitating insecurities.

Is Zoom Dysmorphia Truly Affecting Professionals?

As soon as plastic surgeons started reopening after lockdowns, they noticed unusually high demands for their services. People seemed more bothered by sagging skin, wrinkles and other cosmetic issues than before the pandemic.

According to one study, when conveying their concerns to their doctors, 85% of patients cited seeing their image on Zoom as the reason they chose to pursue plastic surgery.

The Real Consequences

Employees who are struggling with low self-esteem and long hours on Zoom continue to experience the effects long after they log off. Zoom dysmorphia continues to cause them severe anxiety, disrupting their work and social lives. They’re also more likely to dread each video call, which can negatively impact their interactions and virtual conversations with teammates, clients, and others.

Additionally, as more offices reopen, many of those experiencing anxiety are fearful to go back to work. Returning to in-person interactions after being remote for so long is causing severe and powerful negative emotions.

Ensuring Professionals Are Supported

Employers should recognize that Zoom fatigue and Zoom dysmorphia are issues their employees are likely facing. Hosting a session with HR or managers to proactively provide tips to employees and check-ins to see what their challenges are while in hybrid or remote environments is critical.

Some tips employers can offer to employees include:

– Focus on something other than their own image when on conference calls
– Add closed captioning in Zoom meetings to help direct their focus to the conversation
– Creating a Zoom recording transcript so any distracted participants can review everything after the meeting
– Encourage employees and managers to turn off the camera when it’s not needed

Zoom dysmorphia is becoming severe and affecting many individuals, so it’s an important issue which HR teams and managers should become increasingly more aware of and look for ways to prevent when possible.

Remote Work’s Lasting Effects

Projections indicate that many companies will remain remote or hybrid after the pandemic, so Zoom meetings aren’t likely to go away.

Professionals experiencing Zoom dysmorphia must feel comfortable addressing these issues before their work suffers, potentially damaging the business’s bottom line as a result.

Offering professional help to those facing severe anxiety – Zoom dysmorphia or otherwise – due to remote work is the most important step. Then, offering more effective communication tools for Zoom, such as Zoom closed captioning services, word-for-word note-taking services and others, can greatly help all employees working in virtual environments.

Employers and others should be aware of the many mental health complications that COVID-19 is causing worldwide. Now more than ever, employees will need support and want to work for employers who make their health their greatest priority.

Verbit has been working with employers and universities globally to help them with challenges that come from web conferencing, including engagement and accessibility. Many of the solutions offered, including captioning, transcription and audio description, serve non-traditional use cases. For more information about how technologies can help Zoom users, students and employees who may be suffering in remote settings, contact us.