Home working makes difficult tasks harder

10 Dec 2020 By Eleanor Whitehouse

Completing mentally demanding activities remotely may have adverse effects on cognitive thinking, research finds

Research has found home working might make mentally demanding tasks harder to complete.

A study of chess players by researchers at Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management revealed that doing complicated tasks that require detailed thinking while working at home may have adverse effects on cognitive thinking.

The team studied chess players competing in a tournament online from their homes. It looked at the impact of tasks normally done offline moving into an online format and assessed the quality of the chess moves made and associated errors using artificial intelligence. 

The researchers concluded that mentally demanding tasks were more difficult when working from home than when in a workplace, and that excessive home working could be detrimental to productivity.

“Cognitive skills used in chess are also used for complex tasks and strategic decision-making such as drafting a legal contract, preparing a tender document or managerial decisions – tasks that require clear and precise thinking,” said Dr Dainis Zegners, from Rotterdam School of Management. “We’re not saying that people should not work from home. But there can be a drop in productivity for cognitively demanding tasks that needs to be accounted for.”

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