Cameras Off Can Lessen Fatigue

When meeting in person isn’t possible, a telephone call may be the next best thing to being there.

Once “Zoom” became a verb it seemed inevitable that screen fatigue would occur.

Managers are increasingly conscious of meeting fatigue, but research by a team led by University of Georgia psychologist Kristen Shockley suggests that it’s not the meetings that are wearing down workers, but being on camera.

“Our study revealed that there’s something about the camera being on that causes people to feel drained and lack energy,” Shockley said.

Her team worked with BroadPath, an Arizona health care services company that has been in the remote work field for nearly 10 years. BroadPath CEO Daron Robertson wanted to quantify how video adds or detracts from a remote experience.

During summer 2020, BroadPath employees took turns leaving their cameras off during virtual meetings and were asked to complete daily surveys assessing fatigue, agency (a feeling that you can speak up in meetings) and engagement for the day. It was discovered that having the camera on during meetings led to fatigue, rather than just being in more meetings. Leaving cameras off reduced fatigue, especially for women and new hires, who frequently feel more pressure to monitor appearance in professional settings. 

The researchers clarify that they are not suggesting cameras should never be used. Seeing faces can be a helpful means of building trust, an important element of B2B sales and marketing. However, once a relationship is established it’s interesting to know that additional research reveals that having voice-only conversations isn’t just less exhausting, it can result in more equal speaking time and increase concentration on what is being said.

It has been suggested that the most underused technology since the global pandemic broke has been the phone call.

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