Working professionals experience webinar fatigue

According to the researchers, companies organising webinars should understand that “less is more” and focus on quality rather than frequency

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, private companies have started introducing webinars on a wide range of topics with the aim of improving productivity and boosting the morale of employees. However, after a year of working from home, employees are increasingly experiencing a phenomenon identified as webinar fatigue.

S. Sooraj, who works in the marketing department of a private firm in Bengaluru, said his company organises at least two webinars a week. “Some of them do not add any value to our work, and often the lineup of speakers is very poor,” he said, adding that some day-long webinars go on for more than eight to ten hours.

When researchers from the Service for Healthy Use of Technology (SHUT) clinic at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) studied webinar fatigue they found that a systematic and multifaceted approach was required to mitigate its effects, which include burnout. Their paper, ‘Webinar fatigue: fallout of COVID-19’, that was published recently in a peer-reviewed journal, made a case for webinar hosts to be trained in adopting best practices, promoting group interactions and breaking longer content.

The researchers noted that the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) includes burnout as an occupational phenomenon rather than a medical condition and have said that there is a need for workplaces to mitigate webinar fatigue. Dr. Manoj Sharma, who heads the SHUT clinic, said that some of the ill effects of webinars include digital fatigue in the form of eye strain, pain in the neck, back and shoulders, more sensitivity to light and disturbed sleep.

While a majority of the webinars hosted by firms are work-related, a few focus on health and wellness, mental health, COVID-19, and parenting. However, compared to other types of meetings, employers find webinars stressful as they demand continuous participation in the webinars. With a huge workload, many also have complained that they have lost time in what they consider an unproductive task. To break the tedium, guest speakers who participate in webinars say that using visual aids and limiting the time slot to 45 minutes or an hour will break the tedium and ensure audience participation.

This ties in with the findings of the paper. According to the researchers, companies organising webinars should understand that “less is more” and focus on quality rather than frequency. “There is a need for a webinar fatigue risk management system that includes education, policies, practices and environmental changes for prevention, early diagnosis and management,” Dr. Sharma said.

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