Digital meetings affect your performance and well-being

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Digital meetings have become an integral aspect of working life. However, there are drawbacks to digital meetings, which are linked to performance, mental health issues and well-being..

Digital meetings have become an integral aspect of working life. More and more employers are recruiting teams that are geographically dispersed and are offering the flexibility to work remotely away from the office. All to be able to compete for the best talents. However, there are drawbacks to digital meetings, which are linked to performance, mental health and well-being.

Britta Nordin Forsberg conducts research in Organisation and Management. She has been condicted research on how the format of digital meetings affects us humans and our cognitive experience of the two-dimensional world that digital meetings provide. She lists why digital meetings can make you both underperform and effect your mental health and well-being.

1. Digital meeting fatigue

During the pandemic, digital meetings came to the rescue for many workplaces. Work could continue as normal without contributing to the spread of infection in a crowded office and there were already digital services available such as Zoom, Teams and Skype. At the same time, it became clear that digital meetings seemed to lead to a particular kind of cognitive tiredness, known as "zoom fatigue", something many people still testify to today.

2. 2D digital meetings require extra mental focus

In a physical meeting, you automatically interpret the non-verbal communication that takes place at all times. But when you don't see someone's entire body language, your brain must work hard instead to "fill in the gaps." You also need to make more effort in your own communication to show more clearly what you think. Your brain is simply not adapted to being confined to a two-dimensional world.

3. Seeing others up close is stressful

In digital meetings, all the participants sit in front of an audience. You see your colleagues facing you instead of their attention being alternately directed at different people based on who is speaking. Furthermore, the "audience" is very close. Their faces are visually very close to your own, and they maintain eye contact with you more than usual. Your brain interprets this as a very intense social interaction.

4. You’re stuck in an unnatural position of sitting still

In digital meetings, you often sit more still compared to physical meetings. Partly so as not to "disappear from the picture", and partly because you don't have to physically move between different meetings. In addition, when you see yourself on the screen, you become more self-conscious and make an effort to stay still in a way that doesn't come naturally to you.

5. You're in the same place, but at the same time you're not

Coming together in a digital meeting implies an experience of being in the same place, while you and your colleagues are actually located in different physical venues. Our focus is on one another, but we are physically in different locations, which creates a "mental borderland" that can be tiring for our brains.

6. Digital meetings can impair creativity and our sense of community

Digital meetings are more task-oriented and less relationship-oriented than physical meetings. The inherent social interaction with others at the workplace disappears, which makes it more difficult to create results at work. The additional focus that digital meetings require has also been shown to lead to reduced creative thinking. As humans, when we don’t feel a community spirit and belonging, this affects our mental health and how we perform.

There are also many advantages

“Of course, there are several important advantages to digital meetings and remote working, otherwise we would have abandoned them after the pandemic,” says Britta Nordin Forsberg. “But increased knowledge is required for us to feel well.”

“We can’t, and we won’t stop the trend towards increased digitalisation in employment. By contrast, we need increased knowledge and understanding of what digitalisation means for our cognitive ability and our brains. When we have understanding, we can also work to change and improve so that we both perform and feel better in the digitised workplace," says Britta Nordin Forsberg.

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