NeuroCognitive Imaging Lab at Dalhousie University

Mind Wandering in Remote Collaboration and Remote Work Platforms


The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted many work practices, not least through the widespread adoption of remote work. Workplace collaboration platform (e.g. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Slack) enable this work, though they often come with costs to various cognitive systems. For example, a recent study found that the prolonged use of Zoom inhibited users’ ability to develop new ideas. Other past studies conducted by our lab suggested that exposure to long videos strain our ability to learn, due in part to increased mind wandering. In Project Homework we explore the various ways that our cognition comes under strain during prolonged use of remote work and remote collaboration platforms. We are especially interested in the ways that our ability to sustain attention becomes weaker over time and the ways that changes in our work environments or collaborations can prevent it. We pursue our research questions using a mixture of methods, including surveys, behavioural studies, and electroencephalography (EEG). This work is led by Dr. Colin Conrad and is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Objectives and ongoing investigations

Our current objectives are described as follows: Conduct a survey that explores the relationships between the use of common workplace collaboration platforms, social interactions, control over one’s remote workplace, and productive remote work. Develop a new behavioural method for detecting mind wandering during remote work. Explore whether past observations of brain patterns during mind wandering apply in a remote work context. Determine whether various healthy remote work practices (e.g. messaging colleagues, turning off your monitor for a time, taking a break) can enhance sustained attention and productive remote work.

Current state of the project and collaboration opportunities

We have completed our first survey and as of September 2022 are collecting data to validate a new behavioural measure of mind wandering. We anticipate collecting data for an EEG study related to this project in the winter 2023 semester. There are two ways that volunteers can get involved with this study. First, we are currently looking for participants, and many students would be eligible to participate. Second, volunteers would be able to assist with the EEG data collection.