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Reduce Meeting Fatigue With Microsoft Teams Together Mode
You may have heard the term “new normal” when it comes to the shift towards remote working which has been forced upon many of us by an unforeseen pandemic. I like to think that the dramatic changes we’ve all experience don’t represent a “new normal” but rather progress. I would, for example, still like to attend certain events and functions in-person. However, there are undeniable benefits for many people (including myself) in being able to work remotely.
The added flexibility of when I take breaks as well as the time and money I save on not having to head into the city are two big positives for me. However, change is often a double-edged sword and there are many challenges that have emerged in this new world of remote working.
One of these challenges is dealing with the phenomenon of “meeting fatigue”, which has shown to be more profound for people having video meetings as opposed to meeting in-person. In response to this Microsoft have built what they have called ‘Microsoft Teams Together Mode’, which is designed to help reduce the increasing problem of meeting fatigue and make people more engaged and social when meeting and collaborating remotely.
The science behind the problem of meeting fatigue
Have you ever found yourself wanting to just lay down and shut your eyes for a bit after a long online meeting? It turns out you’re not lazy but actually dealing with a legitimate problem, called ‘meeting fatigue’. This phenomenon was confirmed in scientific research published in Microsoft’s Work Trend Index Report.
Researchers from Microsoft’s Human Factors Lab conduced research and experiments in an effort to better understand how the human brain responds to collaborating online compared to in-person. Specifically, the experiment consisted of 13 two-person teams each of which were given similar tasks to complete, with one member of the team completing the tasks online and the other in-person. Each member of the team wore an EEG device so that researchers could monitor their brainwaves and how they change based on the tasks they were doing.
The research showed that brainwave patterns associate with stress and overwork were significantly higher when collaborating remotely compared to in-person. In addition, an unexpected discovery was made that if two people collaborate together remotely it will be difficult for them to adjust to in-person collaboration afterwards.
Further research was also conducted, which illustrated that the brainwaves associated with stress and overwork were significantly higher during online meetings as opposed to other types of work, such as responding to emails. It was also identified that fatigue sets in after 30-40 minutes of sustained concentration during video meetings.
The main takeaway from this research is that it people find video meetings and remote collaboration psychologically draining and this inspired Microsoft to create new ways to reduce fatigue for people working remotely.
The Solution – Microsoft Teams Together Mode
Microsoft Teams together mode has been designed to bring people in meetings together in virtual spaces such as an auditorium or café. The idea behind this was to make people more social, relaxed and attentive. Together mode creates a more engaging atmosphere by allowing people to focus on other people’s faces and body language which in turn, helps reduce meeting fatigue and keep people focused on achieving shared goals.
Microsoft have stated that together mode is optimally suited for calls in which multiple people are speaking so you can easily see who’s talking and the look’s on other people’s faces as they listen, which makes people feel more comfortable to join in on the conversation.
It is also optimal for people who attend a lot of video meetings as it will help reduce fatigue and make it easier to remain attentive. It’s also particularly useful for presenters who want to “read the room or get energy from attendees”.
Microsoft Teams together mode is not ideal for people who need to show a part of their actual environment such as a physical whiteboard, nor is it ideal for presenters who need to share their screen for extended periods of time.
Expected to be generally available in August, there will be some limitations to the first release of Microsoft Teams together mode. Firstly, if you leave a meeting and return to it later you won’t necessarily return to the same seat, which can be confusing for other people. It also will not work optimally on mobile phone, due to the screen size as well as the angle you hold your phone at. If you’re moving around the room during a meeting it will also look odd in together mode.
Is your IT infrastructure set up optimal for remote working and governance?
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organisations have rolled out collaborative communication and content management systems such as Microsoft Teams and SharePoint. These systems are often provisioned by IT teams who do not consider information governance or records management requirements, creating issues particularly for Government agencies.
Some of these issues include only discovering new sites, Teams and groups after they have been created by end-users, or policies for managing information assets being ignored or forgotten about by IT. If this is you we recommending contacting one of our Microsoft 365 consultants or checking out our Office 365 services and cloud governance tools we implement.
Liza is a SharePoint consultant with over 15 years’ experience in the private and public sector in the use and delivery of SharePoint and other collaboration solutions using Microsoft 365. She is passionate about technology and improving productivity and quality through collaboration and innovation.
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