Research

Why Zoom meetings are so tiring

Not a recent research article, but very interesting during these times when so many of us are working from home: does using Zoom drain your energy? Manyu Jiang, for BBC Worklife, looks at this phenomenon. She spoke to Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead, who explores sustainable learning and development in the workplace, and Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University, who studies workplace wellbeing and teamwork effectiveness, to hear their views. Some of the issues identified by them include:

  • a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face meeting - we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy
  • silence on a video call is more of a challenge 
  • when we are 'on camera' we are very aware we are being watched

Furthermore, the mere fact we are having to hold virtual meetings highlights why we are needing to do so: the current pandemic and what this means for us all. The mixing up of work and personal lives, work space and family space - all contributes to this stress. 

To reduce the fatigue, the experts suggest limiting video calls to those that are necessary. Turning on the camera should be optional and in general there should be more understanding that cameras do not always have to be on throughout each meeting. Having the screen off to the side, instead of straight ahead, could also help  concentration, particularly in group meetings. Read the entire article here: The reason Zoom calls drain your energy. BBC Worklife (note: link fixed!)

Problem-solving meetings reduce sick leave

Swedish researchers have found that guided problem-solving meetings between workers with common mental disorders and their managers can reverse any "mismatch" with the work environment, significantly reducing sick leave and improving return-to-work (RTW) times.

They looked at 100 Swedish workers suffering new episodes of incapacitating work stress, depression or anxiety and found those who were quickly placed in a brief "participative problem-solving intervention" took 15 fewer days of sick leave in the next 12 months than those receiving the usual care. They found that while both groups had similar overall improvements in mental health symptoms, the program participants were able to partially RTW after a sickness absence significantly earlier.

The intervention comprised of three steps: the first two were interviewing the manager and the worker separately; the third was a joint where the two were guided by a consultant and encouraged to actively take part in problem solving around the worker's work situation. Workers were also provided with advice on stress management and attended at least three follow-up meetings where the RTW plan was reviewed – steps the researchers said are also crucial to reducing sickness absences.

Their results show these types of interventions can be enhanced by a participative problem-solving approach, and with early involvement from the employer. Given that common mental disorders like depression, anxiety and adjustment disorders are among the main causes of long-term sickness absences in many countries, these could be important findings.
Read more: Marijke Keus van de Poll, et al, Preventing sickness absence among employees with common mental disorders or stress-related symptoms at work: a cluster randomised controlled trial of a problem-solving-based intervention conducted by the Occupational Health Services. [Full text] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online first April 2020 doi: 10.1136/oemed-2019-106353. Source: OHSAlert

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