Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a shift towards more virtual work. However, little research has examined the positive or negative effects of videoconferencing. Anecdotally, many people report feeling “Zoom fatigue” after engaging in a videoconference meeting. New research (Bennett et al., 2021) explored how widespread fatigue is related to the increase in videoconferencing.
Research participants across multiple industries completed hourly surveys over the course of a week. They were asked to describe videoconference fatigue and how they felt about videoconference meetings. Three major themes emerged from the data. The first theme described psychosomatic and psychological responses to the videoconference experience. Strikingly, almost 93% of respondents indicated that they felt exhausted, fatigued, tired, drained, or worn out after videoconferences.
The second theme that emerged from the data was that videoconference fatigue occurred most often after multiple videoconference meetings. Fatigue was associated with an extended amount of screen time, multiple videoconference meetings, or due to the time of day of the videoconference.
Finally, the third theme that emerged included in-meeting causes of videoconference fatigue. Participants reported always “having to be on,” especially when cameras and/or microphones were required to be turned on. Additionally, participants reported that videoconferences required more attention, were easier to become distracted in, and made it harder to make personal connections.
BEST TIME OF DAY FOR A VIDEOCONFERENCE
The researchers found that videoconferencing fatigue initially declines in the mornings and then increases throughout the afternoon and early evening. Fatigue was highest when videoconferencing meetings were held between 10:30-11:30am and throughout the afternoon. Lower levels of fatigue occurred when participants used the mute button or when they felt a feeling of belongingness or connection to other employees.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
There are multiple steps that organizations can take to reduce videoconference fatigue. First, managers should communicate with employees to determine the best time to hold videoconference meetings—a time that maximizes employee attention. Long videoconferences should be broken up by breaks to help minimize fatigue.
Additionally, organizations should work to enhance perceptions of belongingness among employees. Making employees feel more connected with each other should make them more interested in participating in a videoconference.
Finally, organizations should think carefully about technology etiquette. In some cases, allowing participants to mute their microphones or turn off their webcams may reduce videoconference fatigue. On the other hand, keeping webcams on may allow employees to feel more connected and engaged. Managers should communicate with their employees to determine the videoconference style that is right for their team.
Bennett, A. A., Campion, E. D., Keeler, K. R., & Keener, S. K. (2021). Videoconference fatigue? Exploring changes in fatigue after videoconference meetings during COVID-19. Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(3), 330–344.