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Microsoft CEO warns of video call fatigue

Satya Nadella suggests workers need the 'cognitive break' of a commute for their wellbeing

Businesses need to consider the effects the switch to remote working has on collaboration, learning and our wellbeing, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has warned. 

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal CEO Council, Nadella suggested that companies need to find solutions for these "major considerations" as the world becomes more dependent on remote working.

Nadella cited a recent update to Microsoft Teams for each issue, but stressed that the changing nature of work presented challenges for productivity. One particular issue with mass remote working, he said, was recruiting new employees and providing the tools and time to train them. 

"Learning, reskilling, onboarding is going to become a huge issue and we need to be able to incorporate the learning content into a workflow that is natural," he said. 

Another problem Nedella raised is video call fatigue, which he said can start within 30 minutes of the first one of the day. What's more, with all meetings taking place via video conferencing software, meaning you simply click from one to the other, he warned that people are not switching off between.

"I never thought I would say this but it turns out that commutes, even though they were painful in some sense, were transition times, so we've introduced 'Virtual Commutes'," he said. "It is just something to give you cognitive breaks between meetings."

"One of the things that has changed is that all meetings start on time now, but if you are booked back to back, you have no transition time - none of that halfway walk. So we need to think about wellbeing." 

Although most people will say they don't miss long walks around buildings, traffic delays or crowded trains, Microsoft suggests that commutes actually serve as meaningful downtime. This transition from home to work can also increase productivity by 12 to 15%, the research suggests.

The 'Virtual Commute" feature will be available on Microsoft Teams in the first half of 2021.

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