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26th Apr 2024

Seeing your own face on video conference calls can have negative mental impacts, study finds

Jody Coffey


If my camera is off during a Zoom meeting, I’m protecting my mental health

We all know the dreaded feeling of hurriedly scraping ourselves together for a last-minute Zoom or Teams call.

While it may be pyjamas on one end, we like to convey an image of professionalism and togetherness up top.

However, many of us (myself very much included) can become fixated or distracted by our own appearance during these meetings.

Is it the grainy quality? Poor lighting? Or the fact that it almost serves as an over-exposing digital mirror?

If you’ve ever come off a video conference feeling like you need a breather or a second cup of coffee, a new study has supported the claim that video calls can cause mental fatigue.

Academics at the University of Galway found that people who take part in meetings on apps like Zoom or Teams can become more fatigued when they opt to leave their cameras on.

The research also determined that men and women who see themselves on screen can become equally fatigues by seeing their own face.

This contradicts previous findings that suggested women may experience more fatigue from self-view video conferencing than men.

Using electroencephalography (EEG), the team monitored 32 volunteers – 16 men and 16 women – all of whom participated in a live Zoom meeting.

During this meeting, all participated in the self-view mode both on and off at different times.

The researchers stated that EEG non-invasively records spontaneous electrical activity in the brain through electrodes placed on each participant’s head and detects the onset of mental fatigue.

Through this monitoring, it was confirmed that fatigue levels were higher during the times when their image was on-screen throughout the meeting.

This overrides previous research, which mostly relies on self-reported data gathered through surveys and interviews, which suggested that women are more prone to Zoom fatigue than men.

These findings, according to researchers, contribute to the understanding of fatigue experienced as a result of the increasing use of video conferencing in the workplace and offer useful insights for organisations to apply as a means of protecting their employee’s wellbeing.