Virtual interactions have become increasingly prevalent in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this surge in video calls has given rise to a new challenge: videoconference fatigue, also known as Zoom fatigue. This phenomenon refers to the exhaustion and sense of detachment individuals experience due to prolonged or inappropriate video-based communication. While previous studies have relied on surveys and self-assessments to explore this issue, a research team led by René Riedl from the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria/Campus Steyr and Gernot Müller-Putz from Graz University of Technology has now provided neurophysiological evidence of videoconference fatigue.
Their study, part of the "Technostress in Organizations" project funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, investigated videoconference fatigue within online university lectures. To carry out the research, the team enlisted the participation of students who attended classes in both traditional lecture hall settings and via video conferencing. By comparing these two experimental conditions, the researchers gathered valuable insights. They employed neurophysiological measurements such as electroencephalography (EEG), electrocardiography (ECG), and questionnaires to capture objective physiological parameters and subjective perceptions of fatigue. These efforts yielded significant findings.
According to the results, a 50-minute video conference-based lecture exhausted the participants far more than a lecture of the same duration in a traditional face-to-face format. Objective measurements based on EEG, specific parameters of heart rate variability, and subjective perceptions expressed by the respondents all supported this conclusion. These findings have been published in the esteemed journal Scientific Reports.
The implications of videoconference fatigue extend beyond individual well-being. It also influences interpersonal relationships and organizational communication. René Riedl emphasizes the importance of gaining a better understanding of this phenomenon, stating, "A better understanding of videoconference fatigue is important, as this phenomenon has a far-reaching impact on the well-being of individuals, interpersonal relationships, and organizational communication."
Riedl and Müller-Putz, along with two colleagues from North America, compose the board of the Society for Neuro-Information Systems. This nonprofit international scientific association, headquartered in Vienna, promotes research and innovation at the intersection of neuroscience, information systems research, and digitization. One of their primary goals is to enhance user satisfaction and productivity when using digital technologies. As the two scientists conclude, achieving these objectives necessitates a thorough comprehension of the neurophysiological processes occurring within the bodies and brains of users.