Video meetings have become common practice, and an indispensable remote collaboration routine. This holds many advantages, provided, however, the tools are used in an appropriate manner, applying the appropriate methodology. Insufficient breaks in between meetings, the limited range of movement as well as the lack of face-to-face interaction may lead to concentration deficiencies and zoom fatigue. These factors can significantly reduce the effectiveness of virtual training sessions or workshops, as researchers discovered. In studies conducted by the universities of Stanford, U.S., und Gothenburg, Sweden, approximately 10,000 participants had been surveyed. The symptoms that were mentioned most often were impatience, poor mental well-being, headache, and a higher level of irritability.
Stuttgart-based vitero GmbH, a spin-off of Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, has engaged in the field of effective online communication for nearly 20 years. Thus, the challenges are not new, but now they affect a much larger number of users. This increasing relevance led researchers to investigate this phenomenon using scientific and methodological-didactic approaches. In the following article, we highlight the challenges posed by the virtualisation of communication and the solutions offered by the vitero inspire webinar software.
Challenges in the virtualisation of communication
A survey for which the universities of Stanford und Gothenburg interviewed 10,000 individuals shows a severe loss of concentration due to the lack of mobility and interaction. The screen as a medium for communication and exchange of ideas attracts criticism. According to the paper “Facial appearance dissatisfaction explains differences in zoom fatigue.”, there are four crucial factors for the so-called “zoom fatigue”. The phenomenon is not new at all; nevertheless, it has undeniably gained significance with the increasing adoption of online communication tools.
Four main causes of “zoom fatigue”
- Seeing oneself in real time during video chats is fatiguing.
- Video chats dramatically reduce our usual mobility.
- Excessive amount of close-up eye contact is highly intense.
- The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.
The main emotional and physical ailments reported by people surveyed on the topic of zoom fatigue include a range of symptoms that may have far-reaching effects: Impatience, headache, lack of balance and increased irritability.
Furthermore, it is noteworthy that these symptoms occur 14.9% more frequently among women than men. Geraldine Fauville, lecturer at the university of Gothenburg, Sweden, attributes this finding to three causes. “They are more affected by the mirror effect, they feel more physically confined by the restricted freedom of movement, and they also feel more keenly that everybody is staring at them”.
The effects of these symptoms are not only noticeable at a personal level, but they may also affect the entire organisation. A decrease in productivity and efficiency may cause longer project terms, cost increases, and sometimes even a lower job satisfaction.
Therefore, it is crucial for organisations and individuals to develop strategies that reduce theses effects and foster a healthier online communication culture.
Solutions and best practices
Stuttgart-based vitero GmbH, a spin-off of Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, has built and expanded its expertise in the field of online communication for two decades. While the challenges of online communication are not new, they have become more prominent due to the growing user base. In many organisations, the coronavirus pandemic acted as a booster and accelerated the shift to online communication. Remote and home office workplaces that offer a flexible and dynamic environment are closely related to the opportunities offered by online communication. There will be no U-turn back to in-person meetings and the obligation to work 100 per cent at corporate offices. Nowadays, people expect more in terms of temporal and geographical flexibility. The challenge is to find solutions that combine the advantages of both communication channels, or even all three of them, i.e., including hybrid communication.
However, the rules and experience acquired in the offline world cannot serve as a blueprint that is simply transferred and applied to the virtual world. The utilisation of online communication demands carefully considered concepts. The room, the contents, avatars, seating arrangements, raised hand gestures – all this is based on a real-world metaphor that was implemented with a scientific background and aims at creating a positive and familiar atmosphere for the participants. vitero inspire is as close to reality as possible.
Based on the patented concept of Inspiring Learning Conditions, the vitero GmbH developed a methodically-didactically high-quality virtual classroom with a realistic and inspiring working and learning atmosphere for numerous areas of application.
The patented approach arose from the guiding idea of creating inspiring, virtual learning and communication environments. The basis forms the intuitive interface and realistic atmosphere in the vitero inspire videoconference software. Beginners are enabled to quickly find their way around. Through the virtual moderation suitcase, the platform offers trainers a variety of possibilities to interactively involve the participants. Despite the spatial separation, a personal and lively discussion atmosphere is created and thus an optimal place for inspirational teamwork and learning.
In addition to offline or online meetings, hybrid meetings have become an important component of corporate communication. The challenge in a hybrid setting is to engage all participants at the same time and level – both online and on-site. While the benefits of online communication should be adopted, the disadvantages of a heterogeneous audience should be eliminated.
The upcoming release 4.2 of vitero inspire will feature the hybrid mode. The underlying concept does not require any additional equipment. The existing media equipment plus one mobile device per offline participant is all that is needed to kick off the meeting. Attendees in the physical room log into the meeting via a QR code and thereby join the online meeting. Advantage: all participants can collaborate interactively and online. The results are displayed in the online tool. The physically present participants will see the results via a beamer or on a screen. In this manner, effective and transparent collaboration becomes achievable.