Tech Firms Modify Work Tools to Handle with ‘Digital Exhaustion’.

  • Millions of people work from home for the second year, big tech companies like Adobe Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, and Microsoft Corp. are introducing new twists to their work tools to combat Zoom exhaustion and general burnout.

Microsoft has added a setting to its Outlook email and calendar that automatically breaks up back-to-back video meetings. Individuals or organisations can programme downtime for 5, 10, or 15 minutes, for example to combat digital exhaustion in employees.

Artificial intelligence is used in a prototype tool in the Adobe Workfront app to help users reorganise their days based on their goals and any last-minute adjustments to their personal and company schedules to combat digital exhaustion.

Google to solve Digital Exhaustion also announced improvements to its Workspace software in March, including setting working hours and generating periodic “gone” alerts to reduce digital interruptions.

As remote work continues, tweaks like these seek to resolve employee and employer concerns about work-life balance. Work has come into all hours of the day, including weekends, as staff never leave the “office,” and the lack of in-person time with colleagues has resulted in an overabundance of video meetings.

Employers have taken some proactive measures. Citigroup Inc., for example, is testing new policies such as prohibiting video meetings on Fridays to avoid employees from getting Digital Exhaustion. BetterCloud Inc., a software company, uses a bot on Slack to ask participants of specific virtual meetings whether the meetings were worthwhile.

According to workplace experts, people were already finding ways to cut meetings short and take a break, so new reminders like these could bolster those efforts.

“With the rapid acceleration that occurred during Covid, where technology became the only way to communicate with others. It was obvious that we needed to get better at using it and establishing our boundaries. ” Said Nellie Hayat, head of the workplace transformation at VergeSense Inc., a workplace analytics platform. She also added that the initiative would have to be “synchronised with others.”

Microsoft’s virtual commute function added to its Teams tools to restrict the start and end of employees’ workdays complements Outlook’s latest break environment so that employee can overcome Digital Exhaustion.

The vice president of Microsoft 365, which includes Outlook and Teams, Jared Spataro, said, “This joins the group of stuff that is intended to help them improve the practises that we need to have to handle this digital fatigue that they experience.”

Adobe‘s Workfront prototype tool begins by asking the user to prioritise their day’s tasks, including open-ended tasks, meetings, or personal things such as working out or going for a run. The secondary duties are then redirected to other workers by Workfront.

Google included Focus Time as a new calendar entry in its March announcement, which reduces the number of alerts shown to users during periods of uninterrupted work and switches their chat status to “Do not disturb.” This year, the feature will be published.

According to user interface designers, some of the latest features seem to be more oriented toward what a company needs for its workers rather than what employees would want for themselves.

For example, during a break, turning off all updates from any workplace tool will be more effective than scheduling rest periods between meetings, according to Emma Greenwood, strategy director at I&CO Group LLC, a strategy and invention company.

“They feel a lot more tied to what businesses would want to sell back to their employees,” she said. “And that’s a recipe for a user interface that doesn’t always help the end-user.”

More breaks and few video meetings can help. Still, they won’t solve the problem of at-home workers’ burnout and loneliness, according to Liz Fosslien, co-author of “No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions At Work.”

Managers must take more vacation days or hold fewer meetings to set an example, she said. They, too, are overburdened and operating on shaky ground, she said.

“Even for companies to come around and say, ‘OK, our employees are nervous, they’re apprehensive, well-being needs to be one of our top priorities for the next six months,’ it hasn’t been a discussion we’ve had before,” Ms Fosslien said. All these to combat Digital Exhaustion.


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