Since the pandemic started, streaming meetings have surged like never before. We spend hours in front of the webcam on video calls with bosses, clients, and coworkers. This can exhaust anyone. Now they’ve studied it.
Feeling particularly exhausted after a day on Zoom isn’t just in your head: Video Conferencing Fatigue (VCF) is real, according to a study conducted by a group of Austrian researchers.
According to the authors of a study published in Scientific Reports, a journal edited by Nature Reports, “data collected worldwide indicates that video conferencing fatigue is a significant issue.”
A very interesting experiment
However, most available research on VCF relies on personal accounts of the problem and focuses more on the cause than the consequences, explain the researchers.
To determine the effects on the brain caused by hours of video conferencing, the team measured electrical activity in the heads of 35 university students who watched a 50-minute lecture while connected to an electroencephalogram (EEG).
The researchers asked another group to watch the same content live. Additionally, the researchers measured the effects on the heart rate of both groups using electrocardiography (ECG), measured before and after the video conferencing sessions.
Subjects were also subjected to cognitive attention tasks and asked for self-reports about their mood.
The surprise came as attendees of the live lecture reported feeling more upbeat, happier, and active, and less tired, drowsy, and fed up compared to their online counterparts. The EEG results mirrored the self-assessment by displaying brain activity indicating harder work, potentially leading to fatigue.
Cardiac data also indicated more fatigue among those who watched the conference online, suggesting that the video version also impacted the nervous system.
The team admitted that the study has its limitations. On one hand, the conferences did not take place in an office environment but an academic one, with an average age slightly under 24 years old.