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Women, turn your cameras off during Zoom calls to reduce fatigue

Earlier this year, a Stanford report had also said that women feel more exhausted than men after video calls

'Presentation pressures' are higher for women than for men
'Presentation pressures' are higher for women than for men (Julia M Cameron/Pexels)

A new study has found that having your camera on during a virtual meeting increases "Zoom fatigue", a feeling of being drained and lacking energy following a day of virtual meetings. And it also found that these effects were stronger for women and for employees newer to the organisation, likely due to added self-presentation pressures.

"Employees who tend to be more vulnerable in terms of their social position in the workplace, such as women and newer, less tenured employees, have a heightened feeling of fatigue when they must keep cameras on during meetings," said Allison Gabriel, McClelland Professor of Management and Organisations and University Distinguished Scholar in the University of Arizona Eller College of Management.

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"Women often feel the pressure to be effortlessly perfect or have a greater likelihood of child care interruptions, and newer employees feel like they must be on camera and participate in order to show productiveness," Gabriel explained.

Earlier this year, another large-scale study examining the full extent of Zoom fatigue conducted by Stanford researchers found that women report feeling more exhausted than men following video calls – and the “self-view” display may be to blame. They found that overall, one in seven women – 13.8% – compared with one in 20 men – 5.5% – reported feeling “very” to “extremely” fatigued after Zoom calls.

The findings of the current study were published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. , and suggests that the camera may be partially to blame for the "Zoom fatigue". Gabriel's research looked at the role of cameras in employee fatigue and explored whether these feelings are worse for certain employees. "There's always this assumption that if you have your camera on during meetings, you are going to be more engaged," Gabriel said. "But there's also a lot of self-presentation pressure associated with being on camera. Having a professional background and looking ready, or keeping children out of the room are among some of the pressures," Gabriel added.

The conclusions came from a four-week experiment involving 103 participants and more than 1,400 observations by Gabriel and her colleagues. "When people had cameras on or were told to keep cameras on, they reported more fatigue than their non-camera using counterparts. And that fatigue correlated to less voice and less engagement during meetings," Gabriel said.

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"So, in reality, those who had cameras on were potentially participating less than those not using cameras. This counters the conventional wisdom that cameras are required to be engaged in virtual meetings," Gabriel added.

Gabriel suggested that expecting employees to turn cameras on during Zoom meetings is not the best way to go. Rather, she said employees should have the autonomy to choose whether or not to use their cameras, and others shouldn't make assumptions about distractedness or productivity if someone chooses to keep the camera off.


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