back to article Videoconferencing fatigue is real, study finds

Feeling especially drained after a day on Zoom is not a figment of your imagination – videoconferencing fatigue (VCF) is real, according to a study penned by a quartet of Austrian investigators. "Self-report evidence, collected all around the world, indicates that VCF is a serious issue," wrote the authors of a study appearing …

  1. Wobblin' Pete
    FAIL

    Duh.

    Yes, but had they forgotten this is what it was like back in the office with hours of face to face pointless meetings? The Zoom/Team meeting are not great, but it's mostly the contents (or lack of) of the meetings which must be the major factor here...

    Except back then after a day of face to face meetings we were then expected to be able to drive home safely in a semi comatosed state.

    As i said, remote meetings may not be that great, but we will probably live longer.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Duh.

      You don't understand. If you are in the office, the office is being used which means it is worth more than unused office.

      The sole reason of this WFH bashing is the investors losing sleep over the future of their commercial property portfolio.

      If the workers were given a share of the capital gains they create by coming to office, then maybe it would have been a different matter.

      1. find users who cut cat tail

        Re: Duh.

        I do not care about investors, just hate WFH. I and also went to work in person basically the entire pandemic (it was almost never strictly prohibited without loopholes). There were about five of us in a large building. Happy times. YMMV.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Duh.

          There were about five of us in a large building.

          Works out cheaper than hiring security and anti-squatters full time.

    2. mickaroo

      Re: Duh.

      Sitting on the highway in grid-locked traffic for two hours every morning fatigue is real, too...

    3. Cav Bronze badge

      Re: Duh.

      "it's mostly the contents (or lack of) of the meetings which must be the major factor here"

      Exactly! I literally finished a 2 hour Zoom session just a few minutes ago and it seemed to fly by because of the stimulating interactions. I've sat in much shorter physical meetings that had me nodding off.

    4. veti Silver badge

      Re: Duh.

      They controlled for that. The study shows that it's more stressful to sit through the same presentation onscreen than in person.

      Of course that's not the whole story. There's still a lot to be said for telepresence. But it's a part that hasn't been objectively measured before, which is interesting.

  2. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Meetings!!!

    Not videoconferences, MEETINGS! Meeting Fatigue is the issue. Endless f***ing meetings where nothing gets decided except maybe when to hold the next meeting. Meetings which only seem to be held so certain people can tell everyone what they do for a living, and expect a pat on the back for it. Meetings held so that certain people can have a nice full calendar to point to whilst claiming how busy they are. The medium for the meeting is utterly irrelevant, video-conf, phone-conf, in-vivo-conf, they are all the same. I have no problems with meetings that actually achieve something or are educational/informative, but really not interested in meetings where satisfying someone's ego or filling someone's Calendar is the only thing that is achieved.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Meetings!!!

      I wish I could upvote this more than once.

      1. find users who cut cat tail
        Stop

        Re: Meetings!!!

        And I wish you both read the article before commenting.

        The study compared people watching the same content remotely and live.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Meetings!!!

          Which makes it a poor study, because the appropriate styles are different.

          It is very exhausting trying to follow an in-person meeting from online - you cannot read the whiteboard or keep track of who is talking.

          It is also very exhausting trying to follow an online meeting in-person - you cannot read the slides or keep track of who is talking.

          It's extremely simple to design a study of this nature to get whichever result you desire, whether accidentally or intentionally.

          As this was a pre-recorded live lecture, the bias is both obvious and deliberate.

        2. Arthur the cat Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Meetings!!!

          And I wish you both read the article before commenting.

          I did. Doesn't invalidate the rant about meetings in any way.

          And your user name is horrible.

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Meetings!!!

      You missed the pre-meeting meeting, and the post-meeting meeting.

      All to discuss the main topic of the meeting which was late deliveries

      Luckily for us the consultants are due to report on that in tommorrow's 5 hour meeting (including 45 min lunch break)*

      Jeez I wish I could make this up, but i've been there

      *Oh and the report will blame Ted in production for taking 2.5 mins to have a toilet break, and instruct him to take no longer that 1 min 24 seconds once a day

  3. EmilPer.

    "hours of videoconferences"

    "hours of videoconferences" ... "hours" is the important part, not "videoconference"

    Humans are weird that way, we get tired even when doing nothing productive simply by being awake ... I guess that's news for that research team.

  4. Steve Button Silver badge

    What about commuting?

    I used to take the train into London, and most of the people on there looked like knackered out zombies.

    Now I have one stand-up and perhaps one other meeting. Sometimes a huddle with colleagues to run through a problem. Fatigue levels are FAR lower.

    1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

      Re: What about commuting?

      Same here (actually I'm sure I recognise that name from my daily trek to Fetter Lane) and I arrived at work in a helpfully pre-knackered state. I avoided meetings like the plague and anything I was "required" to attend also required manhandling to get me there. Nearly everything conjured up as an "initiative" by typically under-utilised managers involved being quickly fatigued and annoyed, meetings were just one of the more visible parts of that. Perhaps a part of any additional fatigue from videoconferencing is the knowledge that one could in theory go and have a lie down to recuperate but instead have to remain by sheer force of will.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "the video version also impacted nervous systems"

    I wonder how that translates to YouTube ?

    Not all videos have the same impact on the nervous system, I guess . . .

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: "the video version also impacted nervous systems"

      In my experience, watching someone else and being watched myself are pretty different, even if I'm watching someone else while I'm being watched. There is a similar difference if I'm participating in a meeting, where I'm supposed to be doing something, and watching something passively, where if I stop paying attention then at worst I have to rewind it a bit.

      Comparing watching television or online videos and a video meeting is not going to get you far.

  6. breakfast Silver badge

    Somewhat artificial configuration

    I wonder if it would be different if one was using videoconferencing in the practical workplace way where you're technically in the meeting, but you're really listening for it to become relevant to you while you get some regular work done.

  7. Mishak Silver badge

    They work well for some

    I am involved with an international committee that used to meet face-to-face every couple of months, but that all changed during the pandemic.

    We now meet for a couple of hours every week, and hold "full day" sessions as needed - where a full day consists of a number of 90 minute sessions with 30-45 minute breaks between them.

    These are targeted meetings where progress is made, and we have found this to be a lot more efficient and productive than face-to-face:

    1) It is a lot easier for international membership as travel is not required (time / cost) - though too wide a range of timezones can be a bit of a challenge.

    2) Turnout is higher as it is easier to find the time to join individual sessions than to find the time to travel.

    3) Keeping the session lengths reasonable stops people getting fatigued, and means they can attend to other matters during the day.

    We do still hold face-to-face meetings every now and then, as it is nice to be able to meet up in the bar for some less formal conversation ;-)

  8. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Landlords

    Was study sponsored by landlords?

    That said, it fails to account for confounding variables - for instance those who went on the live conference, prefer to go to live conferences, because when at home they don't have to be in presence of abusive partner etc.

    So there poor studies are published because they fit the narrative and journalists no longer question whether they are rubbish or not.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Landlords

      You had to make some large unsubstantiated assumptions in order to reach your predetermined conclusion that their study must be wrong. If you read it, you might be able to come up with reasons it's bad that sound more plausible, and if you read in detail, you might even find a real flaw with it. From a glance, I see a few possible complaints that would have held water. It's a lot harder to spot on an online forum than when you completely make it up, like you've just done.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Landlords

        The "read more deeply to find real flaws" argument. Indeed, I could delve into the minutiae of the study, scrutinising sample size (anecdotal at best!), participant selection, and measurement tools, but why bother when the glaring omissions are so patently obvious? We're talking about a study that conveniently overlooks the vast spectrum of human experience - notably, neurodiversity and the nuances of personal circumstances like domestic environments. If we're to accept research as a reflection of reality, shouldn't it account for factors such as ADHD, which fundamentally alter one's interaction with learning environments? Or consider those who might find solace in remote settings away from potentially abusive situations. But sure, let's assume a homogenous sample in a controlled environment speaks for the diversity of human experience. After all, it's not like real-world applicability matters when you’re crafting a neat, tidy narrative that aligns with prevailing assumptions, right?

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The test was a lecture, not a meeting. That's a very different thing.

  10. Adibudeen

    There are a couple of things this study doesn't make clear. They showed the students a prerecorded lecture and told them it was live. That means the students were led to believe the professor ignored their presence the entire time, and there was no interaction. As a former teacher, I'd say that's a very different problem than the issue of videoconferencing. Students benefit from an interactive learning experience, even if it's just eye contact. That doesn't necessarily translate to workplace meetings.

    Secondly, they cite sources of other studies where meeting participants have their cameras on. The fatigue is usually from the cameras, not virtual meetings themselves. I always keep my camera off and feel a lot less fatigue. For this study, they don't even specify whether or not the students believe they're on camera.

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      Personally, I find find:

      1) Meetings with video and shared content the least tiring.

      2) Followed by meetings with shared content.

      3) Followed by meetings that are audio only*.

      * with a really annoying subset where the speaker is talking about a document and expecting everyone to keep up in their own (local) copy.

  11. Bill Gates

    ENJOY it MORE than commuting and being in a noisy office.

    This is someone trying to gaslight workers.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those attending the live lecture reported they felt more lively

    Well they would but does it add anything to the exchange of real information. What is said just disappears into the aether. Better to take some quite time, write-up a memo and then have other people add their contributions. The only use of meetings whether virtual or real is so managers can assume they are useful. i once attended a meting where the two senior managers stood at opposite ends of the room and wouldn't speak to one another.

  13. nijam Silver badge

    The study was presumably funded by a consortium of PHBs.

    1. Scott 26

      it was funded by a business who makes money from services & products that "help" with stress from tech,

      so, immediately, I think "not unbiased, then"

      I was going to share this with my colleagues with a cheeky "hope manglement doesn't see this", but once I saw the study's sponsor, there's no point even bothering with that cheeky joke.

  14. Gerhard den Hollander

    What a negativity

    In the comments.

    Having experienced wfh and in person office and now enjoying the benefit of hybrid working, I try to schedule my days such that most meetings can happen in person as much as possible and use the wfh days to focus.

    Having endured both, a day filled with in person meetings is not much fun, but a day filled with video meetings is soul draining, despair inducing and brain melting.

    At least I got the washing done.

    And even there is the rub, after a really bad day of really bad meetings, hanging around the coffee machine and sharing the grief w/ colleagues is a lit better than trying to explain to your partner why your day left you soulless.

    Or some days in stead of the coffee machine the beer fridge. Or maybe som9ne had a decent bottle of red in their office drawer for just this kind of emergency.

    Whereas drinking after work in a wfh situation just marks you as an alcoholic.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: What a negativity

      Not everyone is you.

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: What a negativity

      Everyone is different.. And different people have different jobs that have different requirements.

      - The coders I manage only want virtual meetings so they can spend more time coding.

      - Some of my staff have childcare or health complications that mean a regular presence in the office is hard for them.

      - But I prefer in-person meetings as I find it easier to read people's body-language and maybe go for a coffee during or after the meeting.

      None of us are wrong. We all have differrent needs.

      The world is complicated and there are rarely (If ever) simple, universal solutions to problems.

  15. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

    When evaluating the value of a study, look at who paid for it

    Which we don't know from the article.

    This looks very suspicious, appears to me that this "study" is meant to "get people back in the office", now who benefits from that? Commercial Real estate concerns.

    Commercial real estate is on the verge of a major collapse.

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