LSE Behavioural Lab highlights critical role of technology in boosting collaboration

Study at behavioural lab of leading UK education establishment finds quality of collaboration outcomes are proportional to quality of meeting technology used by both office-based and remote/hybrid workers

Research from Jabra has suggested that many meetings are held in settings unsupportive for collaboration or productivity, raising the question of whether the technology used in meetings negatively affects behaviour and the ability to collaborate effectively.

The audio, video and collaboration technology provider said that answering that question has taken over a year of work using facilities designed to study human behaviour in a controlled environment at the Behavioural Lab at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

The study, Meeting great expectations: behaviour, emotion and trust, sought to understand the biopsychological impacts of the technology used in day-to-day work and how it affects collaboration and inclusion in meetings.

The study group comprised of 88 participants representing 15 nationalities, using a range of psychological approaches and measures, ranging from self-report ratings to capture participants opinions and feeling, through to what is described as highly objective and sophisticated eye-tracking, facial-expression analysis and biological indices of arousal and cognitive load.

The study used state-of-the-art technologies at the LSE Behavioural Lab for eye-tracking, facial expression analysis, skin conductance response and endogenous eye blink. The data was collected and analysed using iMotions software.

In a previous Jabra study, Hybrid ways of working 2023 global report, it was found that only 15% of employees reported that all of their office’s meeting rooms were equipped with video cameras for online meetings, and around 60% of knowledge workers still relied on built-in laptop cameras and microphones. This highlighted red flags for Jabr, which stressed that weeting experiences are holistic and need to factor in all participants.

It added that when people first made the shift to remote work during the pandemic, most organisations provided employees with headsets and webcams for online meetings. However, Jabra said the quality of this technology varied and was oftentimes inadequate. In fact, only 19% of knowledge workers were using a personal, professional webcam.

Looking into how technology impacts the quality each person can access a meeting, and how much an equal playing field affected everyone’s overall collaboration perceptions, the recent study observed significant improvements when everyone in a meeting was using professional equipment.

Additionally, the study revealed that remote workers often face the greatest challenges with technology in hybrid meetings. When using professional headsets and cameras, the research saw overall call clarity improved by 18% among remote workers, while meeting room participants also rated remote users 32% higher in terms of expressiveness.

Meeting room participants also showed nearly twice (84%) the perceived level of engagement when comparing hybrid workers using professional equipment with those on laptop with built-in hardware. Furthermore, remote participants also trusted others joining remotely 22% more when using professional technology.

The study found that when people used professional technology both in the meeting room and remotely, those joining remotely reported a 56% improvement in the quality of conference room contributions. While the study emphasised that nothing can quite replace face-to-face interaction, the second-highest ratings for collaboration, right after in-person meetings, came from remote participants rating conference room users equipped with professional video gear.

The findings highlighted increased levels to which remote workers can show up and contribute to hybrid meetings, and the advantages technology can provide them. It said any business aiming for inclusive meetings should prioritise updating their meeting spaces to support fair collaboration.

“In today’s world of hybrid meetings, bridging the gap between in-person and remote collaboration has never been more important,” said Simon Noyce, British chartered psychologist and lead project researcher.

“Our aim is to encourage businesses to harness this technology to enable meaningful interactions that come as close as possible to the richness of face-to-face engagement.”

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