LSBU Research Shows Zoom Fatigue is Harming Your Wellbeing (and Your Business)

Why increased screen time is affecting your productivity
Jemima Heard
December 1, 2020

During the first COVID lockdown in March 2020, businesses were forced to transform operations. Many adopted virtual meeting room programmes such as Zoom, Teams or Skype, and screen time surged.

Screen time is the measure of time a person spends in front of a monitor: laptops, TVs, smartphones or tablets. Adults in the UK now spend an average of 45 hours a week in front of these devices.

Researcher and Professor, Karin Moser, from LSBU's Business School, researched the connections between digital media, wellbeing and levels energy depletion experienced during the first lockdown. It discovered that workers now have an increased need for daily recovery time.

A fatigued worker rests his head away from his Zoom Meeting.

Findings include:
  • Remote working creates 'Zoom fatigue' and a greater need for longer recovery time compared to on-site work
  • Communication via video calls is more tiring than other forms of digital communication, such as emails or text
  • Video calls require higher levels of self-control and regulation of emotion than other channels of communications
  • The unpredictability and constant flux of remote communication methods are detrimental to overall well-being of the workforce.

So what's the fix?

Whether you're an employee or an employer, it's likely you will feel the impact of Zoom Fatigue.

We asked Karin how this can be combated by business owners - she recommends:

  • Create explicit agreements with employees regarding the breaks they should take.
  • Avoid out of hours demands unless this has been previously agreed with certain employees.
  • Avoid setting a poor example by doing out of hours work (such as sending emails) yourself.

Regarding video conferencing, best practice is to: 

  • Limit video calls to 1 hour where possible
  • Use in small teams
  • Use video conferencing more sparingly - avoid using it to convey information which can also be shared in text.
  • Limit video conferencing to occasions when interaction is really key and decisions need to be made.
  • Try to have everyone on camera for the whole duration, rather than on/off camera.

If customers are struggling to understand your new out-of-hours rules, you can mitigate this by clearly communicating working hours on your website, social media bios, and in your email signatures.

Find out more about the research on LSBU's Open Research portal or from Karin Moser herself at The MoserLab.

This research was conducted jointly with colleagues from Aston University and University of Wuppertal in Germany. It has been featured on the websites Metro, Mail Online, About Manchester, and Personnel Today amongst other publications.

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