We’ve been working longer hours and attending more meetings since pandemic lockdowns began
Looooooots of meetings.
How many meetings do you have today? And how many of those meetings are about other meetings? And what about the classic “post-meeting meeting to discuss the next meeting”?
If this sounds typical, you aren’t alone. Millions of office dwellers have been working from home since pandemic lockdowns began in March, and because of that, we’ve become enamored with meetings. Data from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that the number of meetings per person has increased by 13 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.
And they’re getting bigger. According to the report, the number of attendees has increased by 13.5 per cent.
We took an informal poll on Twitter, and a lot of you can relate.
Of the 72 respondents, 84.7 per cent said they’ve been sitting in more meetings lately.
But it isn’t all bad news.
Or maybe it is — that’s a matter of opinion. Read on to see what we mean.
While you’re likely participating in more meetings, the data suggests their length has shortened by 20.1 per cent.
“Collectively, the net effect is that people spent less time in meetings per day (-11.5 per cent) in the post- lockdown period,” reads an excerpt from the report.
But while people may be spending less time in meetings overall, the paper doesn’t address the fact that video conference calls can be far more draining than face-to-face meetings.
The phenomenon has been dubbed ‘Zoom fatigue’. Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at INSEAD who explores sustainable learning and development in the workplace, tells the BBC there are several reasons for it.
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“Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy,” he says.
“Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally.”
Another thing: Less time in meetings doesn’t equate to a shorter workday. The paper found “significant and durable increases in length of the average workday,” up 8.2 per cent, or 48 minutes, along with “short-term increases in email activity.”
The findings are the result of an analysis of meeting and email meta-data from 3.1 million users in 16 cities in North America, Europe, and the Middle East.
But there are some limitations, according to the paper. Privacy restrictions prevented the researchers from seeing the content of the emails, so they were unable to see if the purpose of the meetings exchanged. They were also unable to determine the user demographics, or which industries have seen the biggest uptick in meetings.
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