ODU researchers look into cause, remedies of videoconference fatigue


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Thursday marks one year since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. A year of lockdowns and social distancing has certainly taken its toll.

Many people are eager to get back to normal, even tired of excessive screen time. Researchers at Old Dominion University are looking into why that happens and how to stop it.

Tired after a day of Zoom meetings or virtual school? You’re not alone.

“We ourselves were going through a lot of video conferences to shift and make things as close to real-life as possible,” said ODU Assistant Professor Andrew Bennett.

Bennett and other colleagues teamed up with researchers at Ohio State University a study.

They polled people working virtually across 13 states. About 20% of those people were in Hampton Roads.

For an entire week, they checked in with those employees every hour of their work day.

“We were asking them a lot about just, what they were going through,” said Bennett. “I mean this is such a new experience for a lot of people to suddenly be working remotely. It wasn’t like they had planned for this to happen or something like that. So just, what were they feeling, what was their mood like, what was their energy like, you know, what were they doing?”

They found that people felt drained after virtual meetings, but there was no one reason that caused it. Instead. there were a few important factors.

Researchers learned that the time of the meeting changed the level of fatigue. The earlier the meeting, the better.

Bennett said, “Having a video conference at the end was just even worse.”

A sense of community is also important. The more people feel connected, the less fatigue they feel.

“It just reinforces how important that connection is with other people,” said Bennett. “That matters so much to our overall well-being, so if we can create that in an online space, too, we should try to do that.”

Bennett also suggests people mute themselves when they’re not speaking to eliminate stress about background noise and ensure you don’t distract anyone else.

Read more about the study here.

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