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64% of Younger Employees Suffer Anxiety From Excessive Zoom Meetings, Study Finds

A new study showed a significant correlation between younger professionals and reported anxiety, peer pressure and self-consciousness from too much time meeting on video.

In the 18-24 age group, 64% reported mental and emotional concerns as they spend an unprecedented amount of time in front of webcams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The younger Zoom-focused work culture commented on the following factors:

  • embarrassment over what can be seen in their backgrounds.
  • self-consciousness over physical appearance on camera.
  • feelings of peer pressure to have cameras on.
  • the fear of embarrassing disruptions by family members or pets at home.
  • being constantly distracted by other meeting expressions or movements during the meeting.

The 22-page report also reveals that 63% of all age groups report that the number of meetings per week has substantially increased since the pandemic. And 61% of all ages indicated that all those meetings are conducted on video.

“Employers need to shift their policies and have candid conversations with their teams about how many meetings they are having and how they feel about meeting on video”, said Virtira CEO Cynthia Watson. “Especially as we move towards hybrid work models, virtual meetings with others aren’t going away – so employers have an opportunity to craft policies to improve well-being.”

Recommendations

  • Video is best used to connect employees in small groups, one-on-one meetings, or for the first 2-3 minutes of larger meetings for everyone to say hello. Even in this context, many people are still uncomfortable with being on video, and managers and HR should work with them to determine root cause and adjust their work situation where possible.
  • There is no indication that large meetings with a screen of talking heads have any productivity advantage and may actually increase distraction and participant anxiety.
  • Being on camera should be up to the employee. Training and communications need to be introduced to make staying off-camera a personal choice when possible.
  • Even with policies, recognize that peer pressure is a key driver of camera use, especially in younger workers, even where it is not required by management or the organization.
  • Meetings are not a substitute for informal office chats or a “water cooler”. Businesses need to introduce and train managers and employees on the use of collaboration workspaces where informal updates can occur 24/7, synchronously, and asynchronously.
  • Packing extra people into a call when they don’t need to be sucks time and productivity. Invest in good meeting notes with a meeting recording so they can quickly update themselves on what they need to know and have more uninterrupted work time.

“The Webcam Survey – Exhausted or Engaged?” includes insights from 1,700+ managers and employees, specifically addressing company policies regarding the use of video during online meetings and the impact on employee well-being. The report comes at a critical time, as employers make decisions regarding permanent remote work, offering data rather than opinion to help steer them.

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