EaseOut: A Cross-Cultural Study of How Digital Avatars Impact Perceptions and Ease of Leaving Online Video Meetings

Being able to engage and disengage from online work is key to achieving work-life balance and autonomy when working from home (WFH). However, leaving meetings early can be particularly challenging online where fewer cues are available for users to interrupt ongoing conversations, especially for users with less power in groups, such as women or junior colleagues. In this study, I tested the concept that digital assistants might be able to “take the blame” from users and make them feel more comfortable to leave video meetings when they need to. Together with researchers at UTokyo and NTT, I am conducting an online experiment with 60 triads of Japanese and US-based participants (n=180) to understand how a digital avatar assistant might impact people’s perceptions of someone leaving early and influence the ease of leaving a meeting early online. I have tested this in two contexts where participants may be more open to robotic agents (i.e., Japan) and less open to such interventions (i.e., USA).