A research team from the University of Exeter and University College London (UCL) conducted a randomized controlled trial with over 100 students and trained a group to use hand signals, including gestures such as waving sign to speak in turn and raise your hand. showing empathy.
The lockdowns have triggered a shift to online meetings for many. Although the change has benefits, it can also lead to fatigue and a feeling of social exclusion. Now the new study, now published in PLOS Afound that participants who used a particular set of gestures to engage and express feedback felt closer to their group, interacted better with each other, and believed they had learned more than those who did not. .
A second, larger study replicated these results and also showed that using response buttons or emoji did not have the same positive effect as hand gestures and in some ways worsened the experience of users. users.
UCL professor Daniel Richardson explained: “Because you can’t make eye contact or pick up subtle nods, gestures and whispers of agreement or dissent during video conferences, it can be hard to know if people are engaged with what you’re saying. There have been attempts to use more technology to improve video conferencing, such as emojis and reply buttons, but we found strong evidence that encouraging people to use more natural hand gestures had a positive effect. best effect on their experience.
Management consultant and UCL researcher Paul Hills designed the hand signal system used in the study. A lifeguard in Falmouth, Cornwall, Paul was inspired by the hand signals lifeguards use to communicate, as well as communication gestures in other sports and workplaces and by signing babies. In his group mentoring work, he discovered how hand signals to express empathy can help people share their feelings.
Paul said: “Gestures are a very human way of communicating that predates speech, but has become much less used by people in video communication. Now, our study indicates how hand signals facilitate communication in a digital world and have psychological benefits. This research highlights that there is something about the use of gestures that specifically seems to aid online interactions and help people connect and engage with each other. It can improve team performance, make meetings more inclusive, and contribute to psychological well-being. »
Through his company Konektis, Paul has introduced hand signals to a number of organizations. Rosie Mackenzie, Global Head of Leadership, Management and Team Development, Astra Zenecasaid, “We find that video meeting signals provide a human connection that makes meetings very inclusive in a virtual world.”
Kim Conch, CEO of Cornish Chamber of Commercewho now uses hand signals for meetings after a successful trial, said: “The signals really liven up the screen and make people feel like they’re back in a room with more people. Signals have become part of our culture and have truly revolutionized our team meetings.It’s a simple and phenomenal solution.
Study co-author Matt Gobel, from the University of Exeter, said: “The pandemic has led organizations and their employees to redefine how, and more importantly, where, they work. Remote and hybrid working have enormous potential to make the workplace healthier, more inclusive and more environmentally sustainable, but we need new ways of working to make it a success. Our study shows that using hand signals during video conferencing is one way to do this. We are just beginning to explore what collaboration and working together might look like in the near future. “
If you have a team or organization that would like to participate in further research or start using this approach, please register your interest here: https://www.konektis.org/
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