Do remote work and video meetings actually tax our brain more than in-person work? According to Microsoft, due to high levels of sustained concentration, the brain fatigue begins to set in 30-40 minutes into a video meeting.
Moreover, those who work from remote locations for a longer time, it becomes actually difficult for them to adapt to office settings afterwards, according to the company.
As millions of people work remotely, video conferences and online events have become a norm but this has taken a definite toll on people’s minds.
According to Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365, a commonly discussed pain point of remote work is that it can feel more challenging or tiring than in-person collaboration.
“Researchers from our ‘Human Factors Labs’ recently set out to understand this phenomenon. Do remote work and video meetings actually tax our brain more than in-person work? The brain science suggests, yes,” said Spataro.
This study began pre-COVID as part of ongoing work in Microsoft around the remote work experience. The researchers asked 13 teams of two to complete similar tasks together – once in-person and once remotely.
Research subjects wore an EEG device that monitored changes in brainwaves.
The study found that remote collaboration is more mentally challenging than in-person collaboration.
Specifically, brainwave patterns associated with stress and overwork were much higher when collaborating remotely than in-person.
“But they found something unexpected as well: If the pair first worked together remotely, their brainwaves suggested it was more difficult for them to work together in-person afterwards,” said Microsoft.
It seems that the social connection and work strategies created when working in-person transfers to a remote setting, but the opposite is untrue.
This study provided two important learnings.
“In a world that’s moving to more remote work, people find remote collaboration more mentally challenging. But also, as people return to more frequent in-person work as the pandemic eases, it may feel more difficult than it did before COVID-19,” the tech giant revealed.
Looking at days filled with video meetings, stress begins to set in at about two hours into the day.
The research suggests several factors lead to this sense of meeting fatigue: having to focus continuously on the screen to extract relevant information and stay engaged; reduced non-verbal cues that help you read the room or know whose turn it is to talk; and screen sharing with very little view of the people you are interacting with.
“To help with this, we recommend taking regular breaks every two hours to let your brain re-charge, limiting meetings to 30 minutes, or punctuating long meetings with small breaks when possible,” Spataro noted.