Research featured in the Journal of Applied Psychology has found new employees and female employees are both more susceptible to fatigue when their managers require them to turn on their camera during virtual meetings.
The reason? Employees feel pressured to present a more ideal image of themselves. That is, by controlling their environment and preventing interruptions, and by portraying themselves as being productive and engaging even when they are tired. Being camera conscious can therefore lead to higher levels of fatigue among remote workers, the researchers found.
A four-week experiment was conducted with more than a hundred participants across 19 work days. One group of research subjects was asked to join in virtual meetings for three hours daily. Another served as a control group then, after two weeks, the participants switched activities.
In the end, researchers observed 1,400 instances of perceived fatigue.
“There’s always this assumption that if you have your camera on during meetings, you are going to be more engaged,” lead researcher Dr Allison Gabriel said.
“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.”
Findings suggest the use of cameras during meetings must be discretional: managers should give attendees the choice whether they would like to go on camera or not. The idea is to empower employees and support them to become genuinely productive and participative.