With the inception of the Coronavirus-led pandemic, the global working culture changed drastically. Due to the lockdown and health risks, people have started working remotely, and many of them even prefer working from home rather than going to an office. However, the current work-from-home and hybrid work culture also have a few issues. As employees jump from one video conference meeting to another, it reduces their focus and productivity. And now, a research study by Microsoft researchers proves that taking breaks in-between meetings is of utmost importance for employees to increase focus and reduce fatigue.
Microsoft Researchers Highlight Significance of Breaks in Between Virtual Meetings
A team of researchers from Microsoft recently performed a study of brain wave activity and concluded that back-to-back virtual meetings are stressful for individuals. This leads to a decrease in focus and ability to retain information. Although this issue is very real and concerning for employers, the solution is also pretty simple: short breaks.
“The back-to-back meetings that have become the norm over the last 12 months just aren’t sustainable. Outlook and Microsoft Teams are used by millions of people around the world, and this small change can help customers develop new cultural norms and improve wellbeing for everyone,” said Jared Spataro, the CVP of Microsoft 365.
The Brain Wave Activity Study
The research team, to attain the conclusion, invited 14 volunteers to take part in the study. The participants wore electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment and took part in various video meetings, each about different topics. The EEG equipment on the participants’ heads monitored the electrical activities inside their brain during and after the meetings.
On the first day, the researchers conducted four half-hour meetings back-to-back. The topics of the meetings ranged from office designing to creating a marketing plan. However, the important point to note here is that there were no breaks given to the participants in between the four meetings.
The next day, the team conducted the same routine. But this time, instead of conducting the meetings back-to-back, the researchers gave the participants short 10-minute breaks between each meeting. During the break time, all the participants meditated with the Headspace app.
Key Conclusive Points of the Study
At the end of the study, the researchers came up with three key points. They are:
1) Breaks between meetings allow the brain to “reset” and reduce a cumulative buildup of stress across meetings.
2) Back-to-back meetings can decrease an individual’s ability to focus and engage.
3) Transitioning between meetings can be a source of high stress
So, all in all, the researchers concluded that breaks in-between meetings not only help in the well-being of an individual but also improves one’s ability to perform better in work.
Taking this information, the Redmond giant has added new default meeting session options in Outlook that allow individuals and organizations to cut 5, 10, or 15 minutes off Microsoft Teams meetings to provide breaks to employees.
Research-Backed Tips to Increase Focus and Productivity
Moreover, to those who think that they can do some other work during break time, the researchers suggest not to do so as it does not give the brain enough time to recalibrate itself. Instead, as per the researchers, you can do the following things during those short breaks in between the meetings, and even during the meetings to reduce stress:
- Shift your mindset by moving away from your computer screen.
- Find break activities that calm your mind like meditation or other physical activities that such as walking.
- Create even more time for breaks by considering other modes of communication and not conducting a full team meeting for one meager issue.
- Make meetings more intentional and punctual.
- Keep participants engaged and energized.
So, these were some research-backed tips from the Microsoft team to reduce the amount of stress in today’s highly dynamic work-from-home culture. Do share this story with your employer to let them know about the significance of breaks in between virtual meetings.