Monday, June 5

If telecommuting wants to succeed, it has to solve a problem: video calls kill creativity

Telecommuting has generated an important debate since the coronavirus pandemic broke out. On the one hand, it has shown that, in many jobs, it can achieve the same results as face-to-face work with obvious advantages for the professional, such as better reconciliation with their personal life and saving time traveling. However, its detractors point out that employees are not as productive remotely and, now, they add a new argument: they are also less creative.

Video calls kill innovation. This is confirmed by a joint study by the universities of Columbia and Stanford, both in the United States, and published in the journal Nature, which indicates that meetings by video call to jointly think of new ideas are less effective than face-to-face meetings. The researchers claim that the screen reduces the cognitive focus of communicators, who focus more on their interlocutor and ramble less, so they are less creative.

“Using gaze and memory measurements, as well as latent semantic analysis, we show that video calls make brainstorming difficult because it focuses communicators on a screen, leading to more limited cognitive focus. Our results suggest that virtual interaction has a cognitive cost for the generation of creative ideas”, says the study.

Zoom Fatigue. Another study from Stanford University, published in March 2021, already pointed in this direction and assured that video calls had a series of conditions that make them more demanding for the interlocutors, so they tire workers more than physical meetings and are less productive than the latter. The author of that investigation baptized this phenomenon as ‘Zoom fatigue’.

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Among the factors that could affect creativity pointed out in that study are the constant exposure to the user’s own face, which makes them always be in tension and more aware of themselves than of the meeting, and the unconscious effort made by users. interlocutors to capture the body language of others, not so clearly through a screen.

Therefore, this overexertion causes, in addition to greater fatigue, the user to focus on matters that have nothing to do with work, making them less productive or, in the case at hand, less creative.

Study limitations. However, despite the fact that the study has enough weight to have been published in the journal Nature, it must be taken into account that the way in which the research was carried out has certain limitations and its results may not be valid for everyone. the cases.

First, the researchers selected 602 people and randomly paired them up to brainstorm creative ideas together for five minutes. The results obtained with this method proved that those who met in person came up with more innovative ideas than those who spoke by video call.

However, this methodology has two important limitations: on the one hand, people were not part of the same team used to working together on different projects, on the other hand, time was extremely limited, and creativity sometimes takes hours, days or weeks to surface.

Field study. Aware of these limitations, the researchers decided to carry out the same test in real work environments, selecting 1,490 engineers from companies in five different countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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In this case, they were granted an hour, but the study does not specify whether the workers had worked together before. The results obtained were similar: the couples who met physically were more creative than those who spoke by video call.

not everything is negative. Despite their negative results in terms of innovation, the study authors stress that they have obtained much other data that suggests that in most professional interactions, video calls do not differ substantially from an in-person meeting. If anything, they point out, it can be said that it is a lower quality version of physical communication, but nothing more.

Thus, they point out that video calls do not reduce the feeling of connection of the people who use them, nor do they change the topics discussed by the interlocutors or their social behavior.

Image | Surface

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