Turning off webcams during virtual meetings reduces fatigue: Study

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According to a new study, keeping your camera on during a virtual conference contributes to “Zoom fatigue” — a sense of exhaustion and lack of enthusiasm following a day of virtual meetings.

The study’s findings were published in the journal ‘Journal of Applied Psychology’.

Over a year after the epidemic forced many employees to relocate, virtual meetings have become ingrained in daily life.

Allison Gabriel, McClelland Professor of Management and Organizations and University Distinguished Scholar at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, has undertaken new study that reveals the camera may be partially responsible for “Zoom fatigue.”

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Gabriel’s research examined the function of cameras in employee weariness and examined whether certain employees experience these sensations more than others.

“There is an underlying belief that by having your camera on throughout meetings, you would be more engaged,” Gabriel explained.

“However, there is a great deal of self-presentation pressure that comes with being on camera. Having a professional background and seeming presentable, as well as keeping youngsters out of the room, are among the pressures “Gabriel continued.

Gabriel and her colleagues discovered that having your camera on during a virtual conference is actually more taxing after a four-week experiment including 103 participants and over 1,400 observations.

“When persons had cameras on or were instructed to keep them on, they reported feeling more fatigued than their peers who did not use cameras. And that exhaustion was associated with lowered voice volume and less engagement during meetings “Gabriel remarked.

“Thus, individuals wearing cameras may have participated less than those who did not. This contradicts the widely held belief that cameras are essential for virtual meetings “Gabriel continued.

Gabriel also discovered that these impacts were larger for women and newer employees, possibly due to increased self-presentation pressures.

“Employees who are more vulnerable in terms of their social status at work, such as women and newer, less tenured employees, experience more weariness when they are required to have cameras on throughout meetings,” Gabriel explained.

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“Women frequently face pressure to be flawless or face more child care interruptions, and newer employees feel compelled to appear on camera and participate in order to demonstrate productivity,” Gabriel noted.

Gabriel noted that relying on staff to activate cameras during Zoom meetings is not the best course of action.

Rather than that, she added, employees should have the autonomy to decide whether or not to use their cameras, and others should refrain from making judgments about someone’s level of distraction or productivity if they choose not to use their camera.

“Finally, we want employees to feel autonomous and supported at work in order to perform optimally. Possessing autonomy over the camera’s operation is another step in that approach “Gabriel came to a conclusion.

Mahira Ganster, an Eller doctoral student, Kristen M. Shockley of the University of Georgia, Daron Robertson of Tucson-based health care services company BroadPath Inc., Christopher Rosen of the University of Arkansas, Nitya Chawla of Texas A&M University, and Maira Ezerins of the University of Arkansas contributed to this research.

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