How you work – and where you work from – may be worlds different than it was just a few months ago. But will it last? Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365, recently posted the company’s latest Work Trend Index report. You may find the trends as interesting as I did. Read his entire post – complete with great graphics and full details here.

Brainwaves reveal remote meeting fatigue is real

Brainwave patterns associated with stress and overwork were much higher when collaborating remotely than in-person. However,  if people first worked together remotely, their brainwaves showed that it was harder for them to work together in-person afterward. It appears that social connections and work plans created when collaborating in-person transfer to a remote setting, but the opposite is not true. Getting back to in-person collaboration as the pandemic eases may feel more difficult than it did before. An initial in-person meeting might help the long-term success of a project or collaboration.

Reducing video meeting fatigue

Brainwave markers associated with overwork and stress are significantly higher in video meetings than in non-meeting work. High levels of concentration fatigue set in around 30-40 minutes into an online meeting. Factors include having to focus continuously on the screen; reduced non-verbal cues that help participants read the room or know whose turn it is to talk; and screen sharing with little view of the people you are trying to interact with.

Microsoft suggests limiting meetings to 30 minutes, or if not possible, punctuating long meetings with short breaks and taking extended breaks every two hours.

The 9 to 5 workday may be disappearing

The pandemic has accelerated the blending of work and life – which may affect workplace dynamics forever.

Surveys of members of Microsoft’s Teams communication and collaboration platform found that people are working more during morning and evening hours, but are most notably working more on weekends. Teams chats outside of the typical workday (8 – 9 a.m. and 6 – 8 p.m.) increased more than any other time during the day – between 15% and 23%, but Teams chats on and Saturday and Sunday increased more than 200%. Meeting during these hours may be more conducive for some as there may be another person available during non-traditional hours to mind children, if needed.

But physical offices will not disappear

Many people have been working remotely at least part-time since March. Does this mean physical offices might disappear sooner rather than later? Microsoft’s research indicated that work will probably be a shifting combination of in-person and remote collaboration. 82% of managers surveyed expect to have more flexible work from home policies post-pandemic, and 71% of employees and managers want to continue working from home at least part-time. What used to be a dream may now be a reality for many.

The research also pointed out negatives associated with working from home. Nearly 60% surveyed felt less connected to their colleagues while working remotelyIn addition, just 35% of respondents in one study had a dedicated home office, and only 5% of the people Microsoft surveyed lived alone. Distractions, internet issues, and the lack of appropriate work environments were pointed out as some of the top challenges of remote work.

As a result, it’s probable that traditional office spaces, with their high-speed connections, ergonomic workspaces, and opportunities for social connections and bonding – will remain the center of the future of work for many of us. However, the pandemic has – probably permanently – changed the course of the work experience for many. Online collaboration – which initially seemed to many like a unique but temporary option  – will be a significant factor in how we all work going forward. The future is suddenly, right here, right now. Are you ready?