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Keeping your camera off during virtual meetings may reduce work fatigue

While much of work life is still virtual, it’s important for consumers to find the right balance

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Results from a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona may help consumers maintain their energy levels while taking virtual meetings

According to their findings, keeping the computer camera turned off during virtual meetings can help consumers feel less tired and actually perform better in their roles

“There’s always the assumption that if you have your camera on during meetings, you are going to be more engaged,” said researcher Allison Gabriel. “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.” 

Staying more engaged during work hours

The researchers collected more than 1,400 observations of more than 100 employees over the course of a four-week period. They looked at how often the participants kept their cameras on or off during meetings, their overall fatigue levels, and their effectiveness in subsequent meetings and other work-related tasks. 

It was clear that employees who kept their cameras on for most of their meetings struggled with their energy levels. Not only was keeping the camera on associated with more fatigue, but the employees were also less likely to participate in later meetings. This led to their overall work performance taking a hit. 

“When people had cameras on or were told to keep cameras on, they reported more fatigue than their non-camera using counterparts,” said Gabriel. “And that fatigue correlated to less voice and less engagement during meetings. 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.” 

These findings were particularly true for women and new hires. The researchers explained that in both cases, these employees may feel that their jobs are on the line, and they feel pressured to always be on camera during meetings.

Moving forward, the researchers hope these findings help employers understand that having cameras on for virtual meetings isn’t the best way to measure employees’ productivity. Instead, eliminating that pressure can lead to better workplace performance. 

“At the end of the day, we want employees to feel autonomous and supported at work in order to be at their best,” said Gabriel. “Having autonomy over using the camera is another step in that direction.” 

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