Remote meeting fatigue occurs when people feel tired after video calls or virtual conference, which is due to an increase in cognitive demand compared to traditional face to face meetings. Virtual reality can be used to replicate social cues and the feeling of presence, which are the main contributors to meeting fatigue.
What is Remote Meeting Fatigue and how is it caused?
In response to the COVID-19 global health pandemic, there has been a huge demand for virtual meetings, with an estimated 3.3 trillion Zoom meetings occurring annually alone (Woolf, 2022). Due to this sudden, extensive shift, a new phenomenon named remote (or virtual) meeting fatigue has been uncovered, which has damaging effects upon individuals.
Remote meeting fatigue is where people feel tired after any type of video call or virtual conference, similar to the feelings of exhaustion or burnout. This is due to communication through virtual platforms taking more effort compared to those in real life as there can be slight verbal response delays across the platforms and lack of social cues, which can cause strain on the ability to interpret words of the people you are talking with (Kavanagh et al., 2021). Furthermore, there is thought to be an overload of faces on one small screen, as well as our own, which can cause hyperawareness of ones own appearance. Because of this ability see yourself on the screen it causes negative self-focused attention, which has thought to be associated with facial dissatisfaction, causing an increase in virtual fatigue levels (Ratan et al., 2022). More simple reasons for remote meeting fatigue is the frustration one may have if they are not tech-savvy enough to use the software’s (Epstein, 2020).
In summary, remote meeting fatigue is caused by the increased cognitive load and demands of video conferencing communication compared to physical meetings and even phone calls.
What can be done to overcome it?
Research has illustrated that higher levels of group belongingness and are the most consistent protective factor against remote meeting fatigue (Bennett et al., 2021). On top of this, activity switching, as well as smaller groups, decreased remote meeting fatigue (Toney et al., 2021), which helps to reduce boredom and keep individuals focus and engagement. Furthering this, research has highlighted that better management and structure within meetings helps to combat this fatigue, as there are clear defined goals and expectations (Nesher Shoshan & Wehrt, 2021).
Additionally, since a lack of knowledge around the technology used contributes to remote meeting fatigue, it may be appropriate to send information booklets out before meetings in order to help all members to understand how to use the software. Online training sessions may also be appropriate to implement, as this will allow for members to trial and understand all the meeting platform components before the official meeting takes place. Due to this, it can be noted that overall confidence around the meeting platforms can have an effect upon meeting fatigue, therefore it would be appropriate to allow for training sessions in which this confidence can be increased.
How can Virtual Reality Help?
Often in remote, video meetings, people can turn their cameras and microphones off, so they can just listen while often doing other activities. This can drastically harm understanding of the meeting. However, virtual reality can enable the experience of collaborating in the same room with colleagues from a remote location, therefore helping focus an attention as the individuals will have more lifelike interactions with each other. Because of this life like feel, virtual reality can also improve engagement and retention as individuals are able to have a feel of space and body language, to an extent, with peers in the same meeting. Virtual reality can also allow for quick, effective activity changes, with a wider range of activities compared to what would be obtainable in a physical meeting.
The role of Presence in Virtual Reality
It can be noted that presence is thought to be a crucial component to virtual reality, with enhancement of presence offering a subjective experience rather than a purely observational experience, which is thought to be central to remote meeting fatigue (Torisu, 2016). Presence is thought to be composed of three dimensions: Social presence (being there), personal presence (being there with others) and environmental presence (existence of virtual space) (Torisu, 2016). The components within virtual reality successfully address these three core dimensions of presence, as people are able to feel like they are there in that environment along with other people due to the first person perspective and immersive feel. This means that virtual reality can be used as an effective method for remote meetings, reducing remote meeting fatigue through the use of virtual environments.
How do we Utilize these Findings at VRE?
Here at VRE we implement virtual reality meetings through virtual platforms which help to combat meeting fatigue. This allows for more engagement in meetings as there are more social cue and an increased feeing of presence compared to traditional video meetings. This in turn reduces remote meeting fatigue and makes remote meetings less demanding physically and mentally.