Researchers from Harvard Business School and New York University’s Stern School of Business just completed a study to explore the impact of COVID-19 on employee’s digital communication.

This study was across 16 large metropolitan areas in North America, Europe and the Middle East, using aggregated meeting and email meta-data from 3,143,270 users. 

Their findings:

  1. Individuals have more meetings (+12.9%)
  2. Meetings have more attendees (+13.5%)
  3. Meetings are shorter in time (-20.1%)
  4. Individuals spend less time in meetings per day (-11.5%)
  5. Individuals have longer workdays (+8.2% or 48.5min)

The numbers are no surprise. Here’s why:

1. Individuals have more meetings

It’s easier than ever to jump on a call or a videoconference, scheduled or not.

Whether it’s through Zoom, Google Meet, Slack, Microsoft Team or the new kids on the block (eg. Tandem), you’re one click away from starting a meeting.

And as remote work exploded during COVID-19, people found themselves working from home in front of their laptops and thus always connected, allowing instant availability during working hours.

Finally, the lack of physical proximity removed the social ad-hoc interactions you have in an office: ask a question, have a quick chat, etc. When remote, it is either email, chat or video call – easy to guess which is the easiest.


2. Meetings have more attendees

With no commute or room to book and instant availability, a remote meeting with 12 participants is much easier to organise than face to face in the office,
Communication is also more tricky in a remote-first environment. On the other hand, meetings are a popular collaborative format for individuals and teams to communicate and share information. 
In short, the ease of remote logistics with the challenge of remote communications have paved the way for meetings with a larger attendance. 

3. Meetings are shorter in time

Humans are interesting creatures: book a room for one hour and if the topic at hand has been fully discussed after 50 minutes, people will find a way to ‘chit chat’ for the remaining 10 minutes in that room – that’s a real phenomenon called Parkinson’s law

But have you noticed it’s not as easy to chit chat on a Zoom call? Videoconference calls are socially awkward. You’re here but not really here and the conversation flow is not as smooth and organic as when you’re face to face. Socially, we don’t enjoy them as much.

And that’s why remote meetings end up being shorter in time.  As soon as the topic at hand has been discussed, the meeting ends – no small talk.

4. Individuals spend less time in meetings/day

The net effect of the above is that people spend less time in meetings per day (more meetings but shorter ones). 

The reality is that it will vary depending on roles. A BDM (Sales) will likely have the ability to cram many more meetings with prospects in one day when working remotely (no travel time) with no impact on the time spent in them.

And despite spending less time in meetings,  having more of them is detrimental to some roles. Paul Graham wrote a great essay about this: there is a cost of interruption associated with each meeting. A single meeting can blow an entire afternoon of work for an engineer, by breaking it into two smaller afternoons, each too small to do anything significant in. More meetings will only make this worse.


5. Individuals have longer workdays.

The study found the average workday increased by a small hour. This was calculated using the span of time between the first and last email sent or meeting attended in a 24 hour period. 
That’s expected – many hours are saved from not having to commute into the office – it’s easier to start the workday earlier and finish later.
But also, work time and personal time become less distinguishable when working from home. It’s very easy to perform non-work-related tasks and take multiple breaks during working hours. So even though, it appears people work longer according to the study, it’s unclear if people actually work more! 


What’s clear is that in a remote-first world, information sharing and communication between teams is challenging – starting with meetings. We spend hours discussing but still, only a fraction of the things discussed get done in time. That’s where Meetric can help – it takes care of the meeting admin, removes the extra work of the action sharing, searching & chasing and helps people accomplish more out of their meetings. Give it a try today – it’s free!

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