With National Stress Awareness Day coming up in November it’s time we start looking at where the most stress in our lives comes from. For many of us it’s not a giant leap to say that work is one of the biggest sources of stress — from deadline pressures and unreasonable bosses, to annoying co-workers and too much to do. In fact, in 2014/15, 23.3 million days were lost due to work-related ill health. While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and performance—and impact your physical and emotional health. But it’s not all bad news, there are some quick fixes for the working environment, such as ensuring workers are using the right technology to enable their productivity.
Generally, technology exists to make our lives easier — especially in the workplace. From video conferencing and cloud, to smart devices and mobile working, advances in technology have changed the way we do things. When it comes to more traditional aspects of work life — like the humble meeting — again there’s the expectation that technology enhances and simplifies the experience.
Meeting room tech stress
We wanted to look at how struggling with technology during meetings and presentations impacts on the stress levels of office workers. We asked 1,000 office workers across the globe who run, present or attend meetings to share their experiences of technology and meetings.
The results were staggering: technology intended to simplify, quicken and enhance office meetings is frequently causing the very opposite effects for its users. Worse, globally, 93 per cent of people revealed that they have experienced wider negative impacts as a result of tech issues during meetings. More than half experienced inefficiencies that affected performance, effectiveness of the meeting and wasted time all due to issues with the technology.
Four out of 10 experienced anger and frustration as a result of unreliable technology, while one-third of respondents experienced decreased morale.
The knock on effect
While it’s not a leap to suggest office workers do experience technology issues, what the study also found was that the negative impact of unreliable technology often extended beyond the meeting room. Almost one-quarter of respondents (24 per cent) said they’d missed a deadline or important actions as a result of malfunctioning meeting room technology.
A further 12 per cent said they had missed out on a sale or winning business, but worryingly, one in 10 reported they had missed out on personal opportunities, such as credit or promotions. The study also found that seven out of 10 office workers reported that they regularly experience stress in trying to share meeting information with different people.
This included 62 per cent saying they often find simply using meeting conference technology stressful; and more than half (58 per cent) frequently find sharing content or screens during meetings using technology stressful.
More than just irritation
And stress is not just a matter of opinion either — the research also included a study by MindLab International, a neuromarketing and market research company, into the emotional and physiological implications of meeting room technology struggles. Unsurprisingly, the study showed that participants’ peak stress levels were 63 per cent higher when technology problems occurred in meetings than when meetings ran smoothly. Indeed, participants’ heart rates reached 179bpm when they were trying to hold a meeting and the technology they were using did not work.
Considering that resting heart rates fall between 60-100 bpm, the exceedingly high 179bpm is a key indicator of serious stress. Collaboration between teams, colleagues, and prospects forms a vital part of today’s business environment so there is value in ensuring participants get the most from the technology that enables these meetings. Almost nine out of 10 (86 per cent) participants in the study believe that improving meeting room technology would lead to an increase in productivity.
The perfect meeting room technology
But what does this all meeting for IT managers? In the research, respondents selected their top five technology capabilities that they thought would make a meeting run smoother.
These included one-touch technology (51 per cent), wireless technology with no cables (44 per cent), sharing data with ease from any device (44 per cent), easily conferencing with colleagues from different locations (40 per cent) and high quality picture and sound (39 per cent).
Stresses about technology issues are evidently proving to be a regular reality for most people and the real life study vividly indicates the serious levels of stress experienced. Technology should make meetings run more effectively, efficiently and easily, yet there are clearly many issues within the way meeting-room technology is dealt with in many organisations.
For IT managers this begins with looking at the needs of the user and matching those needs to a technology solution. In the meeting room environment particularly, usability is crucial in avoiding stress — this may mean addressing issues such as compatibility (different devices and different operating systems), wireless capability and ease of sharing to ensure that not only that stress is kept to a minimum, but also that the technology actually gets used as intended and the organisation’s technology investment delivers a return.
Lieven Bertier, head of product management ClickShare at Barco
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