Well-Being Mental Health

How hand gestures help fight Zoom fatigue

“Because you can’t make eye contact or pick up on subtle nods, gestures and murmurs of agreement or dissent in video conferences, it can be hard to know if people are engaged with what you’re saying.”
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Story at a glance


  • Researchers found that participants whose group practiced using specific hand gestures interacted better with each other.

  • They conducted randomized control trial with more than 100 students, training one group to use specific hand gestures to signal emotions, like empathy, and another for when they wanted to take a turn speaking. 

  • The team found that participants whose group practiced using specific hand gestures interacted better with each other and learned more.

Using hand signals during calls can increase a team’s ability to communicate more effectively in an environment where it is difficult to pick up on social cues, a new study suggests.  

University College London researchers, prompted by COVID-19 transition to remote work for many, found that participants whose group practiced using specific hand gestures interacted better with each other and learned more. 

“Gestures are a very human way to communicate that predates the spoken word yet have become far less used by people in video communication,” University College London researcher Paul Hills said in a news release. “Now, our study indicates how hand signals aid communication in a digital world and have psychological benefits.”    

For the study published in PLOS One researchers conducted a randomized control trial with more than 100 students, training one group to use specific hand gestures to signal emotions, like empathy, and another for when they wanted to take a turn speaking. 

Another experiment tested the effect the use of emojis might have during video conferencing. But researchers found using them made users’ experience worse in some cases. 

“Because you can’t make eye contact or pick up on subtle nods, gestures and murmurs of agreement or dissent in video conferences, it can be hard to know if people are engaged with what you’re saying,” University College London professor Daniel Richardson said in a media release.   

“There have been attempts to use more technology to improve video conferencing, such as emojis and response buttons, but we found strong evidence that encouraging people to use more natural hand gestures had a much better effect on their experience.” 

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Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 7.1 percent of the American workforce worked from home in June due to the coronavirus pandemic.