How to get tired of videoconferencing


Sci­en­tists have shared a valu­able recipe that can reduce anx­i­ety and fatigue dur­ing video con­fer­enc­ing.

Before the pan­dem­ic, video­con­fer­enc­ing was a small part of peo­ple’s lives. But when the coro­n­avirus sent every­one home, sent school­child­ren to dis­tance edu­ca­tion, and office work­ers to work remote­ly, video con­fer­enc­ing appli­ca­tions became one of the main work­ing tools of mankind.

As a result, a new prob­lem sud­den­ly emerged. It turned out that video con­fer­enc­ing is very tir­ing. For this, a new term was even coined — “Zoom-fatigue” (Zoom fatigue). We have pre­vi­ous­ly told about the nature of this phe­nom­e­non and how it can be dealt with. But now sci­en­tists have looked deep­er into the prob­lem. Turns out the cam­eras are to blame.

Camera tired

Ear­li­er this year, Jere­my Bailen­son, found­ing direc­tor of the Vir­tu­al Inter­ac­tion Lab at Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, pub­lished a long arti­cle on Zoom fatigue and “non-ver­bal over­load”. The sci­en­tist described four key fac­tors that he believes may explain why video con­fer­enc­ing is so tir­ing for peo­ple. Some of these fac­tors were explained by the fact that the user is con­stant­ly under the gun of the cam­era lens. Now a new study has test­ed Bailen­son’s find­ings exper­i­men­tal­ly.

To study the effect of cam­eras on the emo­tion­al state of users, sci­en­tists from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zona con­duct­ed exten­sive research with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of 103 sub­jects. The study last­ed four weeks. The sub­jects were divid­ed into two approx­i­mate­ly equal groups.

The first group had to turn off their web­cams dur­ing dai­ly video con­fer­ences for the first two weeks, and the sec­ond group had to keep their cam­eras on. The require­ments for the sec­ond group were the oppo­site — in the first two weeks, the sub­jects had to com­mu­ni­cate with the cam­eras turned on, in the sec­ond — with them turned off.

Every day, all sub­jects filled out a ques­tion­naire, which not­ed their lev­el of fatigue, involve­ment in the con­fer­ence, and the dura­tion of the call. The results were amaz­ing.

First­ly, peo­ple with cam­eras on report­ed high­er lev­els of fatigue. Sec­ond­ly, peo­ple with cam­eras turned off were more pro­duc­tive and engaged in dia­logue.

“When the cam­eras were on, the sub­jects report­ed more fatigue than their coun­ter­parts with the cam­eras off. The high­er this fatigue was, the less active and involved the per­son was dur­ing the video con­fer­ence. Thus, peo­ple with the cam­eras turned on par­tic­i­pat­ed in the dia­logue less than peo­ple with the cam­eras turned off. This direct­ly coun­ters the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom that cam­eras are required to get peo­ple involved.“says Ali­son Gabriel, a researcher at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zona and one of the authors of the study.

The fact that being “under the gun” of the cam­era can tire a per­son is not news. But the fact that a per­son becomes less pro­duc­tive from this is a tru­ly impor­tant dis­cov­ery that breaks many tra­di­tion­al ideas. After all, many man­agers still believe that their employ­ee must show his face in order to be effec­tive.

Accord­ing to sci­en­tists, the effect of the cam­era affects women and begin­ners the most. Women are often con­cerned about their appear­ance, which is why the turned on cam­era puts a par­tic­u­lar­ly strong emo­tion­al pres­sure on them. Begin­ners, on the oth­er hand, feel that they have an oblig­a­tion to active­ly flick­er in front of the cam­era, prov­ing their pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. In fact, it only reduces pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

What to do?

The advice that sci­en­tists give is extreme­ly sim­ple. Allow peo­ple to turn off cam­eras dur­ing video con­fer­ences. Each per­son must decide for him­self whether he wants to “shine” his face when call­ing. And if he does­n’t want to, he can’t be forced to do so. Coer­cion will only lead to the fact that a per­son will feel ner­vous and tired, and his pro­duc­tiv­i­ty will decrease.

So if your boss or teacher stub­born­ly requires you to turn on the cam­era — do not hes­i­tate to share this arti­cle and the find­ings of sci­en­tists with him.

The results of the study are pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Applied Psy­chol­o­gy (Jour­nal of Applied Psy­chol­o­gy).







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