Here’s how you can reduce exhaustion from video conferences

A new study lists out recommendations to help reduce video conference fatigue since increased remote work and the use of video conferences during the coronavirus pandemic is making more people feel exhausted from online meetings instead of in person.

The findings of a new study suggest that video conferences might be less exhausting if participants feel some sense of group belonging. The study found that being on video didn’t have an impact on feelings of fatigue.

As remote work and the use of video conferences have dramatically increased during the coronavirus pandemic, more people are fatigued from meeting through computer screens instead of in person. The research was published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

In this study, 55 employees in various fields in the United States were surveyed about their feelings about videoconferences. The researchers thought longer meetings and being on video would cause the most fatigue, but their findings surprised them, said lead researcher Andrew Bennett, PhD, an assistant professor at Old Dominion University.

“We expected that aspects of being on video would be related to fatigue, such as watching everyone’s faces closely on a screen or even watching yourself, but we didn’t find this to be true in our study. Longer meetings also didn’t impact fatigue,” Bennett said. “However, the importance of feeling a sense of belonging or connection with the group really minimized fatigue after a video conference.”

Watching oneself on a webcam or turning the webcam off had no statistically significant impacts on post-meeting fatigue, the study found. Participants reported conflicting feelings about using the webcam, with some saying it was exhausting always to be staring at the screen while others felt it was impersonal when participants switched off their webcams.

Based on their findings, the researchers made some recommendations to help reduce video conference fatigue:

Hold video conferences in the early afternoon.

Enhance perceptions of group belongingness, including time for small talk before or after the meeting or breakout rooms where people could talk about their interests (sports, movies, etc.).

Establish basic meeting rules, such as whether to keep webcams on and refraining from doing other work.

Take breaks by looking away from the screen, standing up, and walking around.

“We know video conferences are helpful,” Bennett said. “We get more emotional and nonverbal information from them, but that doesn’t mean everything needs to be done in a video conference. Sometimes a phone call or email is more effective and efficient.”

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