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Tired During Virtual Meetings? Turn Off Your Camera, Says Study

After more than a year of remote work and virtual meetings, you may be familiar with what many are informally calling “Zoom fatigue”, a casual term for a general lack of energy during and after virtual meetings. A new study out of the University of Arizona says having your camera on might be the reason.

A four-week experiment conducted by Allison Gabriel, McClelland Professor of Management and Organizations and University Distinguished Scholar in the University of Arizona Eller College of Management, summarized that having your camera constantly on during a virtual meeting is more tiring than having it off.

This flies in the face of the general belief that keeping your camera on will make you more engaged, a belief that Gabriel says fails to account for the pressure of constantly engaging in self-presentation while the camera is on. Maintaining a professional background and keeping disturbances, like pets and children, out of the camera’s frame are just two of the many pressures one must consider when participating in a virtual meeting with their camera on.

“There’s always this assumption that if you have your camera on during meetings, you are going to be more engaged,” Gabriel told ScienceDaily. “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.”

The study, which was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and involved 103 participants and more than 1,400 observations, found that the fatigue-inducing effect of having your camera on was amplified in women and newer employees, possibly due to the added self-presentation pressures both groups must deal with.

According to Gabriel, companies should give their employees the option of turning their camera on or keeping them off. Gabriel also suggests a shift in meeting culture so that other employees don’t assume a lack of productivity from employees who choose to keep their camera off.

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