During the pandemic, as everyone was confined to their homes, they found new ways to communicate, hold meetings and ensure that work ran as smoothly as possible. Most people resorted to teleworking and virtual meetings. The result was what was later described as “zoom fatigue”, a feeling of being out of energy. A new study suggests that the camera overload, which helped us stay in touch with our colleagues and family, may be the reason we feel low on energy. The research investigates the role of the camera in making employees feel more tired – and whether these feelings were more pronounced in some employees than in others.
The research, conducted by Allison Gabriel, McClelland Professor of Management and Organizations and University Distinguished Scholar at the University of Arizona Eller College of Management, involved 103 participants and more than 1,400 observations. The experiment lasted four weeks. Gabriel and his team have found it more tiring if the camera is on during meetings. The research was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
During the experiment, people who had their cameras on reported more fatigue than those who turned them off. The researchers also found that people who use cameras participate less than those who don’t because of fatigue. It was a complete twist on the conventional wisdom that seeing the other participant keeps you more involved during a virtual meeting.
“There is always the assumption that if you have the camera on during meetings, you will be more engaged,” Gabriel said in a statement. Having a professional background and looking ready, or keeping the kids out of the room are among some of the pressures. “
Researchers also found that the effects were stronger for younger employees and women. “Women often feel pressure to be effortlessly perfect or are more likely to have disruptions in childcare, and younger employees feel they must be in front of the cameras and participate to show productivity,” said the lead researcher.
Gabriel suggested that waiting for employees to turn on their cameras during virtual meetings might not be the best idea, instead they should be allowed to choose what they prefer.