September 27, 2021 - Ireland Ingram

“The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new era of remote work which highlighted the barriers to well-being, equity, and inclusion in the workplace,” said Dr. Rabindra (Robby) Ratan, an Associate Professor and AT&T Scholar at MSU’s Department of Media and Information in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences. “Video meeting fatigue is especially harmful to women and people of color, intensifying things that were already occurring in face-to-face meetings, such as unequal talking time and interruptions,” continued Dr. Ratan “It is the ultimate hope that this research will allow for insights to improve general best practices for virtual meetings among a number of diverse teams and industries to minimize this fatigue.”

Dr. Ratan, was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study how future virtual meeting platforms can better support well-being and social equity. The project will focus specifically on video game developers, who rely heavily on virtual meetings within teams with varied expertise and roles.

Joining Dr. Ratan on the grant will be Dr. Adam Sulzdorf-Liszkiewicz, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Information at MSU, as well as collaborators other institutions, including three MSU CAS PhD alumni, Alex Leith, David Beyea and Brian Klebig. The $1.6M Grant supports 4 years of research. 

The project uses a mixed-methodological approach to pinpoint and test virtual meeting-platform features that influence user welfare. This 5-part study will include language processing of social media, a survey of remote workers, targeted interviews, and an online experiment to test hypotheses about which specific virtual meeting features enhance video game-developer welfare. The final part to this study will use prototypes and user tests in a virtual reality meeting platform with game development teams to confirm which design features promote well-being and social equity.

“I am thrilled to have received this award because this project has the potential to improve remote working environments, making them more inclusive and improving employee well-being,” said Dr. Ratan. “Even beyond COVID-19, remote workspaces will clearly play an important role in our future work activities, so we must learn and understand how we can make these platforms equitable for all.”