Many people have anecdotally reported that virtual meetings make them feel exhausted. Often, attendees feel they should turn their cameras on, the assumption being that people will be more engaged if they can be seen. However, new research suggests that having your camera turned on may make you feel more drained.
The University of Georgia's Kristen Shockley and her colleagues ran an experiment asking employees to rate their level of fatigue during online meetings when their cameras were either on or off. As the researchers had hypothesised, employees felt more tired when they had their cameras on – probably because they felt that they had to put on a performance all of the time.
Perhaps surprisingly, the number of hours spent in virtual meetings was unrelated to fatigue. In other words, it's not how long you spend in virtual meetings that is likely to tire you but the number of hours you spend in meetings with your camera switched on.
Of course, it is not always possible to turn your camera off – for example, when meeting with clients or important stakeholders. However, the study suggests that we should not automatically turn our cameras on for virtual meetings. To feel less tired, consider using at least some virtual meetings as voice-only opportunities for communication.
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