Seeing yourself on Zoom and Teams causes fatigue

Professor Eoin Whelan, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at the University. Credit – Aengus McMahon.
Apr 22 2024 Posted: 07:59 IST

Study of brain activity sees no difference in impact of self-view video conferencing on men or women  

A study of brain activity has confirmed users’ fears that viewing your own image on video conferencing calls leads to mental fatigue. 

A newly published study conducted by academics at University of Galway has found that people who took part in meetings on Zoom become more fatigued when they can see themselves on-screen.   

Led by Professor Eoin Whelan, of the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at the University, and Dr Ann O’Brien, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, and Dr Denis O’Hora, School of Psychology, the research also found that men and women become equally fatigued when viewing their own image, a finding which contradicts prior research which suggested women experience more fatigue from self-view video conferencing than men. 

The research team conducted an experiment using electroencephalography (EEG) monitoring of 32 volunteers - 16 men and 16 women – all of whom participated in a live Zoom meeting, with the self-view mode both on and off at different times. 

EEG non-invasively records spontaneous electrical activity in the brain using electrodes placed on the head and can detect the onset of mental fatigue. 

The monitoring confirmed that fatigue levels were significantly greater during the times participants could view their own image. 

Prior research, which largely relies on self-reported data gathered through surveys and interviews, has suggested that women experience more Zoom fatigue than men. Reasons offered for this gender difference centre on the increased self-awareness women have of their appearance when they view themselves in a mirror. 

The University of Galway study, which measures fatigue at a neurophysiological level, questions whether gender differences actually exist for video conferencing fatigue. 

The findings not only contribute to our understanding of fatigue incurred as a result of the dramatically increased use of video conferencing in the workplace but also offer practical insights for organisations aiming to protect employee well-being in the era of hybrid and remote work.  

Speaking of the findings, Professor Eoin Whelan said:The use of video conferencing platforms exploded during the lockdown. They continue to be heavily used in work and education today and offer some advantages over in-person meetings. But people often report feeling exhausted by video conference meetings. Our study shows that those feelings of fatigue you get during video calls are real, and seeing your own reflection makes it even more tiring. Simply turning off the mirror image can help offset fatigue in virtual meetings.” 


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