Younger employees suffer anxiety from excessive videoconference meetings, says survey

A new study is providing insights on the high degree of anxiety and self-consciousness experienced by those who are part of the younger videoconference-focused work culture.

Among other things, respondents reported mental and emotional concerns as a result of spending an unprecedented amount of time in front of webcams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study showed a significant correlation between younger professionals and reported impact of meeting on video. In the 18-24 age group, 64% 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.

Other key findings include that 63 per cent reported that the number of meetings per week had substantially increased since the pandemic. And 61 per cent of respondents indicated that all those meetings were 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 Cynthia Watson, CEO of Virtira, a consulting and project management company.

The company specializes in remote advisory and project services to companies to increase virtual team productivity.

“Especially as we move towards hybrid work models, virtual meetings with others aren’t going away,” added Watson. “So employers have an opportunity to implement policies to improve well-being.”

The following recommendations were made based on the findings of the survey:

  • 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 advantages, 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.