By Janneke Henning, SAP Concur Regional Solution Specialist for Africa
Covid-19 has fundamentally changed how (and where) people work. Working from home has already become the new-normal, with a recent Gartner poll indicating that 48% of employees will continue to work remotely in a post-Covid future.
One of today’s biggest challenges accelerated by remote working is a relatively new malady called online (aka Zoom) fatigue, where employees feel overwhelmed by the amount of screen time. This year alone, Zoom saw online meetings swell to more than 300 million daily in April 2020. And online meetings are not slowing down: the market is expected to grow 19% over the next five years.
It is evident that employee wellbeing and engagement is more important than ever and making a few small changes can have a significant impact on job satisfaction and productivity.
This month SAP Concur will have all 8,000 staff members from across the globe have their Outlook meeting defaults reduced from 30 minutes to 25, and from 60 minutes to 50. It might only be a few minutes in between meetings, but research indicates that the brain goes into overdrive when faced with a gallery of faces displayed on a single screen, and this is where breaks of five or ten minutes can go a long way in providing time to unwind, refresh and help improve the employee work experience.
Covid-19, the great work reset
Gartner predicts two parallel trends about the new future of work. One is that some employers will de-humanize their employees, viewing them as dispensable commodities: treated like workers first, and people last. The second scenario is that some organisations will accept greater responsibility in ensuring the physical and mental well-being of their staff and be increasingly engaged in maintaining an outstanding employee experience.
Companies that are committed to creating a great work experience have been shown to outperform their sector peers by as much as 122%, and understanding the triggers of online fatigue, allows them to make empathetic changes to mitigate it.
Here are five tips to help reduce this increasing phenomenon:
1. Try text and email first: More than 90% of communication is non-verbal, making traditional face-to-face meetings more conducive for picking up body language cues and tone. But with video-conferencing it becomes more tricky to gauge a person’s disposition, and our minds start burning glucose to try fill in the blanks. This leaves us exhausted.
Instead, try communicating by email or text first. If an online meeting is inevitable, encourage people to join with their camera’s off, and their microphones muted unless they need to speak or be seen.
2. Share an agenda: If preparation is important for face-to-face meetings, it is even more so for online meetings where distractions can derail attention. Having an agenda will keep a meeting focused. A study has shown that only 23% of people give their complete attention, so staying brief and on point is essential.
3. Enforce breaks: Avoid scheduling meetings back-to back. More importantly, take regular breaks with exercise and refreshments to help boost mental energy. As noted above in our new ‘five and ten minutes back’ meeting policy.
4. Create sacrosanct blocks of quiet time: These are periods where meetings are actively discouraged. This allows employees to schedule and complete critical tasks without any interruptions. Recent research on working from home shows that 42% of remote workers admitted they were more effective in their tasks if they had longer, distraction-free periods of time available.
5. Empower employees to decline when necessary: We’ve all gone into face-to-face meetings where we’ve had other more pressing issues to deal with. In a work-from-home future, employees should feel able to excuse themselves from meetings that clash with the completion of critical tasks, or other urgent priorities.
By Marchelle Abrahams / Daily Mail for IOL
Are we raising a generation of web addicts? A major new study seems to point in that direction, saying children in the UK have become so addicted to screen time that they are abandoning their hobbies.
It found that under-5s spend an hour and 16 minutes a day online and their screen time rises to four hours and 16 minutes when gaming and TV are included. Youngsters aged from 12 to 15 average nearly three hours a day on the Web – and two more hours watching TV.
The study said YouTube was “a near permanent feature” of many young lives and seven in 10 older children took smartphones to bed. It concluded: “Children were watching people on YouTube pursuing hobbies that they did not do themselves or had recently given up offline.”
Creative parenting expert and author Nikki Bush believes the danger of technology is that it has become a management tool.
Many times parents look to it as as a virtual babysitter, to the detriment of a child’s mental health.
“Your child’s cognitive intelligence is all based on emotional bonding.
“They are growing up in a very hostile world and it’s hostile for a number of reasons,” said the author of bestselling book Tech Savvy Parenting.
What they really need is that feeling of safety and security that comes from belonging and togetherness.
It’s very important for them – it’s like a cushion for a hostile world. And that comes from human interaction, which is very important.”
But as parents spend more time away from their younger ones, many are flocking to YouTube to fill that void. Some youngsters are becoming so obsessed with YouTube celebrities that they idolise them as role models, an Office of Communications report said.
“YouTube was a near permanent feature of many children’s lives, used throughout the day,” researchers in the study said.
Often they come across unsuitable content by accident, when they are searching for something else.
Sometimes they simply seek out material they are too young to view.
They are also led to it by YouTube’s own algorithm which feeds them suggestions based on their tastes.
Children prefer YouTube to old-fashioned television or TV on-demand services because they “could easily access exactly what they wanted to watch and were being served with an endless stream of recommendations tailored exactly to their taste”, the report said.
Many of the parents involved in the research were shocked to learn what their children had been watching.
By Chris Welch for The Verge
In keeping with Google’s push into digital well-being, YouTube is continuing to roll out more tools that give users a clearer overview of their usage habits. When users open their account menu, they’ll now see an updated profile that shows the amount of time they’ve viewed videos that day, the previous day, and over the last week.
“Our goal is to provide a better understanding of time spent on YouTube, so you can make informed decisions about how you want YouTube to best fit into your life,” the company wrote in its blog post. YouTube pulls these stats from your watch history, so if you’ve got that option disabled for privacy reasons, it’s not entirely clear if you’ll get the usage breakdown or not. We’ve asked YouTube for clarification. Hopefully, the service is at least smart enough to know when you’re watching something and calculate that time.
YouTube Music and YouTube TV do not count toward the “time watched” profile.
The new, more thorough user profile comes in addition to other recent features YouTube has rolled out to help its users “better understand their tech usage, focus on what matters most and disconnect when needed.”
The service has already added optional reminders to take a break during extended viewing, and you can also choose to streamline all of your usual YouTube notifications into a condensed, once-per-day “digest” that pings your device at a time of your choosing. By default, YouTube now silences notifications — so they won’t cause sounds or phone vibrations — between the hours of 10PM and 8AM. You can opt to disable this or adjust the quiet notification hours to your own schedule.
YouTube joins other tech giants, including parent company Google, Apple, Facebook, and Instagram, in adding greater detail and transparency about the minutes and hours that people can spend using their apps daily. As always, acting on the information is up to you, but at least it’s now readily accessible.