Ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and with worldwide shutdowns, businesses and employees have been using digital, connected technologies to work. While most of the world was shut down, workers found themselves on more Zoom and Teams meetings than ever before. When people couldn’t connect in person, having face to face interaction time catapulted the technology into popularity.
Now, many businesses have adopted regular use of these technologies for conducting meetings with staff, customers and clients. But one recent study found all of this use of video technologies could be harming workers too.
According to researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU Singapore) workers are reporting extreme fatigue and feeling of being drained and overworked.
The survey, conducted in December 2020, asked 1,145 Singapore residents who worked full-time and used video conferencing apps frequently how they felt about the use and 46.2% said they felt overwhelmed, tired, or drained.
The study was co-authored by IN-cube research fellow Dr. Goh Zhang Hao and the report findings were published in the Computers in Human Behavior Reports in June 2022.
With hybrid workforces flourishing and more video conferencing planned for the future, co-author and Assistant Professor Edmund Lee, also from NTU’s WKWSCI and Assistant Director of IN-cube, recommends that employers be mindful of both the benefits and drawbacks.
“While video conferencing tools are easy to navigate and useful in scheduling meetings, the downside is that people may end up packing their day with back-to-back meetings, leading to exhaustion at the end of the workday,” said Lee.
Some of the reasons for the increased burnout includes that videoconferencing dramatically increases the amount of eye contact in an average meeting which can invoke stress and social anxiety. Because these apps also allow speakers and participants to see themselves during video chats it can also create ‘mirror anxiety’ and trigger thoughts of self-consciousness.
Another factor the report looked at was how Internet quality issues can impact the fatigue a worker experiences from videoconferencing. While a reliable connection didn’t improve the fatigue rates, poor internet reliability, coverage, cost and speed did increase a user’s fatigue level from using videoconferencing.
Further research will be conducted and the company said it plans to further explore the consequences of fatigue from videoconferencing on family units.
Assistant Professor Benjamin Li, from NTU’s WKWSCI, who led the study, said, “We hope that our results will spur further research to understand the extent to which the environment for human communication can function as a social determinant of health. We hope that it will encourage different stakeholders, such as policy makers, technology developers, community leaders, corporate leaders, and users, to come together to practically address the problems of videoconferencing fatigue.”
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