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Doing this during video meetings will make them bearable

Video call platforms have exploded in popularity during the pandemic.

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Happy African American teen girl waving hand talking using laptop enjoying online virtual chat video call having distance conversation chat meeting sitting on sofa at home.
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

By Danny Halpin via SWNS

Using simple gestures such as a 'thumbs up' or a hand on the heart can make video conferencing more bearable, suggests new research.

Video call platforms have exploded in popularity since the pandemic with so many people having to work from home.

But it has been associated with poor mental well-being, confused communication and fatigue.

To help overcome the problems, researchers from University College London (UCL) and the University of Exeter have developed a technique called Video Meeting Signals (VMS) to be used during meetings.

They include a thumbs up - which shows agreement - and a hand on the heart, to express sympathy.

Paul Hills, of UCL, said: “Our research indicates that there’s something about the use of gestures specifically which appears to help online interactions and help people connect and engage with each other.

"This can improve team performance, make meetings more inclusive and help with psychological wellbeing.”

Mixed race teen girl waving talking to happy diverse teenage friends during online virtual chat video call in group conference distance chat virtual meeting using computer at home. Over shoulder view.
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

The team, whose work was published in the journal PLOS One, tested their system on more than 100 undergraduate students.

Only half were trained on the technique while all students participated in two video-based seminars in groups of 10, before answering a survey about their experience.

Those who had undergone VMS training reported a better personal experience and had better feelings about their seminar group.

Analysis of the seminar transcripts suggested that students with VMS training were also more likely to use positive language.

The researchers found similar results in a follow-up experiment with non-students. In that study, participants were trained to use emojis instead of VMS gestures but this did not lead to the same improved experience.

Now the researchers want to continue studying VMS, investigating the detail of how it works and how to get the most out of it.

Professor Daniel Richardson, also of UCL, added: “Because you can’t make eye contact or pick up on subtle nods, gestures and murmurs of agreement or dissent in video conferences, it can be hard to know if people are engaged with what you’re saying.

“We found strong evidence that encouraging people to use more natural hand gestures had a much better effect on their experience.”

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