Stress concerns raised over videoconferencing use

New research has found that the extended use of use of videoconferencing apps during COVID-19 pandemic led to more fatigue among workers.

The team at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have found that the increased use of videoconferencing platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a higher level of fatigue, as reported by workers.

Following work-from-home orders issued by governments worldwide during the pandemic, many employees attended meetings virtually using technologies such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, instead of meeting face-to-face. In a survey conducted in December 2020, the NTU research team found that 46.2% of all respondents reported feelings of fatigue or being overwhelmed, tired, or drained from the use of videoconferencing applications.

Assistant professor Benjamin Li, from NTU’s WKWSCI, who led the study, said: “We were motivated to conduct our study after hearing of increasing reports of fatigue from the use of videoconferencing applications during the pandemic. We found that there was a clear relation between the increased use of videoconferencing and fatigue in Singaporean workers.

“Our findings are even more relevant in today’s context, as the use of videoconferencing tools is here to stay, due to flexible work arrangements being a continuing trend.”

The respondents reported on average that they spent about three days working from home and spent about nine hours working each weekday.

Co-author assistant professor Edmund Lee, also from NTU’s WKWSCI said: “As more organisations move toward embracing a hybrid work model where videoconferencing plays a significant role in how people meet and work, employers should be mindful of both the benefits and drawbacks of such technology in the workplace.

“While videoconferencing 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.”

The team said that their goal was to highlight how current implementations of such technologies can be exhausting to employees and how companies can improve and optimise their use by their workforce.

“Videoconferencing dramatically increases the amount of eye contact in an average meeting, invoking stress and social anxiety in worker,” according to the study. Allowing speakers, or meeting participants to see themselves during video chats constantly also creates fatigue, as it encourages ‘mirror anxiety’ which refers to a feeling of self-consciousness triggered by the self-view in video conferences that acts as an omnipresent mirror during social interactions.”

Li added: “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.”

Co-author associate professor Edson Tandoc, from NTU’s WKWSCI  added: “The onus is on employers to continue exploring what may help to cushion the fatiguing impact of frequent use of videoconferencing tools, as many employees continue to rely on these tools to carry out their daily work routines.”