- Microsoft has conducted new research on the effects of continuous virtual meetings on the human mind.
- The study was based on findings from mapping brain activities of 14 participants.
- The findings showed reduced stress levels if the participants took a break after each meeting.
With work-from-home being the new norm in the pandemic-stricken world, companies have been trying to find out the best practices to keep their employees healthy and productive. New research conducted by Microsoft on such lines tells us that continuous video calls without breaks can reduce focus and even trigger stress.
Microsoft published its findings on Tuesday. For the study, the researchers at Microsoft asked 14 people to take part in video calls over two days. These people were made to wear electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment - a cap that is able to monitor brain wave activity.
As for the experiment, the 14 people conducted four half-hour meetings, one after the other, on one day. On the next day, they were made to take 10-minute breaks between the same amount of meetings. During the break, the participants were made to use the meditation app Headspace.
The recordings from the EEG during both days confirmed that back-to-back virtual meetings could make one stressed. No breaks in between the meetings led to a spike in stress levels. This spike was even more noticeable just when the participants were shifting from one meeting to another.
On the contrary, the day the participants were made to take short breaks between the meetings, they were found to be more relaxed and focused. Breaks between the meetings let them reset their brains and hence engage in the next activity with renewed focus.
Based on the study, Microsoft launched a new Outlook feature recently that sets shorter meetings on the service by default. In addition to the limited duration, the new feature also encourages users to take breaks between each of the meetings.
The default settings on Microsoft Teams now have been updated to start meetings five minutes after the hour. This would give people a 5-minute window for a breather before any meeting conducted through the service.
"Our research shows breaks are important, not just to make us less exhausted by the end of the day, but to actually improve our ability to focus and engage while in those meetings," said Michael Bohan, senior director of Microsoft's Human Factors Engineering group.
"Try not to use that five or 10 minutes to squeeze in some other kind of work," Bohan suggested. "Catch your breath and take a break away from your screen."