Science: Your Zoom background matters

Klick Applied Sciences research explains why certain types of Zoom backgrounds more effectively fuel creativity than others.

Klick Researcher Adam Palancia on Zoom.
Klick Researcher Adam Palancia on Zoom.

Relief from Zoom fatigue, and an extra boost to your creativity, may only be a few clicks away, according to research from Klick Applied Sciences.

The group’s new study found that a simple change to one’s Zoom background, to a nature-related image, may be all it takes to sharpen focus, enhance creativity and even serve as a balm to overall psychological well-being.

The study results may not be entirely surprising. After all, getting closer to nature has long been linked to positive health effects and improved mental health in previous research. But the goal of the study was to find out how to incorporate those benefits in a work-from-home or hybrid setting, according to Adam Palanica, a scientist at Klick Applied Sciences who helped coordinate the research.

“The restorative aspect of nature has a pretty robust effect,” Palanica explained. “You can experience that effect through a lot of different stimuli or stimulus types.”

“If you walk outside in beautiful nature, that can enhance your emotions, replenish your cognitive well-being or make you feel good in general. But the restorative effects of nature can also be translated into pictures on the wall, plants in your office or a virtual background during Zoom,” he continued.

Though the noxious effects of Zoom fatigue aren’t fully understood, some experts suggest it may have to do with high amounts of close eye contact, the exhaustion of seeing yourself constantly on screen and the reduced mobility that comes with sitting through meetings on a screen. It can also be difficult and tiring to give and receive communication signals over Zoom compared to in-person settings.

The Klick researchers tested three types of Zoom backgrounds on 80 participants: a nature setting, an urban setting and a plain grey background (which served as a control). They found that participants experienced higher creative performance when given the nature-themed Zoom background.

The overarching learning? That when Zoom-weary creatives need a lift during the day, they should change their backgrounds to lush forests or serene beaches.

“Creativity is associated with psychological well-being and overall enjoyment in life,” Palanica added. “You can enhance it, which is important, and this little hack is free and efficient. There’s no reason why anybody shouldn’t use it.”

This story first appeared on mmm-online.com. 

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