As the world heads into a longer stretch of remote work amid the Covid-19 Delta variant, advisory firms might want to encourage workers to keep their cameras off during virtual meetings.
Being on-camera in meetings is a major component of what is being called “Zoom fatigue,” and is linked with lower engagement and participation, results of a scientific study published this week show.
The study, published in Journal of Applied Psychology, followed 103 workers over the course of four weeks and included more than 1,400 daily observations. The results lend further support to the concept of Zoom fatigue, or the feeling of being drained of energy after a day of online meetings.
The researchers found that being on-camera led to fatigue and that the effect is not attributable to the amount of time in meetings or even the number of meetings. Further, it led to workers being disengaged and participating less than if they spent the meeting off-camera.
It also disproportionately affected women and newer employees, the researchers found.
“Theoretically, our findings clarify that self-presentation and its fatigue-related costs are exacerbated when the camera is on during virtual meetings,” the authors wrote. “Our results align with popular press ideas and an emerging body of research which suggest that being ‘watched’ enhances the need to manage impressions and directs focus inward, inducing fatigue.”
Prior to the pandemic, some research indicated that using video for remote meetings added a valuable human element, as being able to see facial expressions helped people read the room.
Employers, including advisers and the larger financial services industry, seem to have agreed with that assessment. But it’s a topic that many do not specifically address, leaving workers to guess about what is expected or acceptable.
“Ninety percent of the team — especially advisers — keep[s] the camera off. The admin folks are much more transparent,” said Dennis Nolte, vice president of Seacoast Investment Services, in an email. “I think even with folks being in the office, mostly, some advisers are camera shy and might not want to see themselves, much less have others seem them, on video. It’s sort of like watching a videotape or listening to an audio recording of yourself. It can be uncomfortable.”
Leibel Sternbach, founder of Yields4U, said in an email that as a long-time remote worker, he has always preferred to be off camera, in part because it can be a distraction.
“I still feel that way — I rarely have my camera on. However, Covid has made it a lot less acceptable and I find myself turning on my camera for initial meetings or important conversations,” Sternbach said. “And although I book all my meetings as Zoom calls, I have everyone’s cameras turned off and state up front that we don’t have to make it a video call. It’s amazing to hear the relief in people’s voices when I say that.”
Expectations can be different depending on the size of the meeting and whether it is with a client, advisers said.
“I have a virtual para planner,” said John Bovard, owner of Incline Wealth Advisors. For those one-on-one meetings, the cameras are always on, Bovard said. “It builds better rapport.”
Bradley Lineberger, president of Seaside Wealth Management, said in an email that video must be on during client meetings. “This is a relationship business and virtual meetings can sometimes lack the ‘personal touch’ that an in-person meeting has,” Lineberger said. But, he said, “Zoom fatigue is real.”
“When appropriate, we turn the cameras off … I think this allows people to keep the stress level at a more manageable place.”
The time of day can also be a factor, said Chris Diodato, founder of WELLth Financial Planning, in an email.
“I always have my camera on in meetings and invite my clients to keep theirs off if they want,” Diodato said. “Interestingly enough, I have a lot more clients who decide to leave their cameras off during morning meetings. Who knows — maybe they’re still in their PJs.”
Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.