Study finds remote workers can cut fatigue with simple workflow change

If you're one of the many people who now work from home rather than at the office, there's a good chance you've gotten into a routine — and that you may be finding the arrangement unusually exhausting. Another study has found what may be the cause of this fatigue and it involves your webcam. Making a simple change to how you use the device can, the study found, substantially reduce work fatigue.

Though many people report preferring a work-from-home arrangement over going to the office, there is one aspect of this new era of remote work that many have expressed distaste for: frequently, or constantly, being on a video call. This phenomenon has been dubbed 'Zoom fatigue' and a couple of studies on the issue have been published.

The latest research comes from the University of Arizona; the study was published in The Journal of Applied Psychology, detailing the issue of remote worker fatigue and how having your webcam turned on during calls may contribute to this issue. The research took place over four weeks and involved 103 people.

The researchers found that participants who were told to keep their cameras turned on experienced more feelings of fatigue compared to participants who had their cameras turned off. Not only that, but the study also found people who had their webcams turned on during meetings were less likely to participate and speak during the meetings.

The findings challenge the popular notion that employees are more likely to engage during meetings if their cameras are turned on. Instead, the study suggests employers and their workers may benefit by giving each individual the choice of whether their camera will be enabled during a call.

Without the camera, workers may be less worried about how they present to others during the call, enabling them to focus on the task at hand rather than stressing about what their coworkers are seeing. Of course, the other side of this is that employers shouldn't assume their employees aren't working just because their cameras are disabled. The researcher behind the study, Allison Gabriel, explained:

There's always this assumption that if you have your camera on during meetings, you are going to be more engaged. 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.