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Zoom Fatigue: What Is It and What Does the Research Say You Can Do About It

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have had to ramp up their usage of online meeting tools. While these tools have been a powerful ally in ensuring that work still gets done amidst the limitations of a virtual environment, there is also one major downside: burnout. The term “Zoom fatigue” came to fruition after many workers reported feeling exhausted and burned-out after attending virtual meetings.

To better explore this phenomenon, a group of researchers recently conducted an experiment at a large US healthcare company and published its results. Participants consisted of over 100 employees who worked in various capacities within the organization. Each participant was assigned to one of two conditions:

  • Condition 1: Employees who were asked to keep their cameras off for the duration of virtual meetings
  • Condition 2: Employees who were asked to keep their cameras on for the duration of virtual meetings

After two weeks, the participants switched conditions such that those whose cameras were previously off were now on and vice versa. At the end of each day, all employees within the study completed a survey on their feelings and perceptions.

The results found that employees who had their cameras turned on were more likely to feel fatigued, which then led to decreased engagement and feelings of disempowerment. Interestingly enough is that these effects were stronger for two groups of employees: women and less-tenured employees. What is perhaps even more interesting is that, contrary to popular belief, the time spent in virtual meetings has minimal effect on these feelings. Rather, the use of cameras—irrespective of the time used—was the culprit.

What can managers do to address these issues? Simply put, organizations should consider making camera use optional when it is appropriate to do so.

 

Reference

Shockley, K. M., Gabriel, A. S., Robertson, D., Rosen, C. C., Chawla, N., Ganster, M. L., & Ezerins, M. E. (2021). The fatiguing effects of camera use in virtual meetings: A within-person field experiment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(8), 1137-1155.