Microsoft EEG studies show video meetings stress people out

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Microsoft EEG studies show video meetings stress people out

Measures brainwave activity.

It's official: video meetings are hard work and tire people quickly, according to a study done by Microsoft.

Remote collabaration has become much more commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, with staff working from home as entire cities and countries lock down to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but it is mentally challenging, Microsoft sponsored studies found.

Video meetings, in particular, require high levels of sustained concentration.

Due to this, at around 30 to 40 minutes into video meetings, people become fatigued. 

In a day full of video meetings, Microsoft's study found that stress would begin to set in after two hours of work.

Microsoft used electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment to measure the amount of overall energy emitted by people's brainwaves during June this year.

It found that markers associated with overwork and stress are significantly higher in video meetings than other work like writing emails.

Factors causing the feeling of stress and fatigue include focusing continuously on a screen to glean information from it, and to stay engaged in meetings.

Fewer non-verbal cues from people that would assist in picking up their reactions and feelings, and even knowing whose turn it is to talk, add to the sense of mental fatigue, Microsoft vice-president Jared Spataro wrote in presenting the findings.

Limiting video meetings to no more than half an hour each, or taking small breaks in longer ones help reduce the feeling of mental fatigue, Microsoft suggested.

Regular breaks every two hours are also good for recharging staffers' brains, the company suggested.

Microsoft's Teams collaboration tool has been tweaked accordingly, with a Together mode that places video meeting participants in a shared background, making it seem as if everyone is sitting in the same room.

This, Microsoft said, reduces distraction and makes it easier to have natural conversations as participants in video meetings can pick up non-verbal communications clues.

The company tested users of the Teams Together mode with EEG, and claimed early research showed that they exert their brains less compared to the standard grid view of participants in video calls.

Teams also has a new Dynamic view that lets users optimise how much shared content and which participants people can see.

Despite the mental fatigue issues when dealing with technology, the surveys showed that people feel more appreciated as remote workers.

However, the working day is moving away from the traditional 9-5, and this is a concern to some who find it difficult to manage the amount of time they now spend as employees.

Overall, the vast majority of managers and employees in Microsoft's studies expect to be able to work from home, at least part-time, in the future.

This presents challenges like the above mentioned elongated hours and mental fatigue, and also not having interpersonal connections that help teams bond and collaborate easier.

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