Digital fatigue: Employees’ virtual meeting time shoots up 252%, shows study 

Digital fatigue: Employees’ virtual meeting time shoots up 252%, shows study 

Digital overload is still a risk as meetings, chat, workday span, after-hours and weekend work have all risen over the past two years for an average Teams user.

(representational image) (representational image)

Work is more flexible now but digital overload is still a risk as the average Teams user saw a 252% increase in their weekly meeting time, and 153% rise in the number of weekly meetings since February 2020, according to findings from Microsoft’s annual report ‘2022 Work Trend Index’ released on Wednesday.  

Apart from meetings, chat, workday span, and after-hours and weekend work have all risen over the past two years for an average Teams user, the findings based on an analysis of collaboration activity across Microsoft 365 tools the past two years pointed out.  

The average Teams user sent 32% more chats each week in February 2022 compared to April 2020, and that figure continues to climb. Workday span (time between the first and last meeting or chat of the day) for the average Teams user has increased more than 13% (46 minutes) since March 2020.  

After-hours (average span between the first Teams chat/call/meeting after 5pm local time to the last signal for the day) and weekend work (average span between the first Teams meeting/call/chat to the last signal on Saturdays and Sundays) have grown even more quickly, at 28% and 14%, respectively.  

But despite the digital overload, people are taking control of their time and reshaping the workday. Productivity patterns in Outlook show people are becoming more intentional about taking breaks, avoiding double booking, and establishing meeting-free work blocks.   

Between March 2021 and February 2022, anonymized Outlook calendar data shows the average number of overlapping meetings per person per month decreased by 44%.   

“Compared to last year, teams are starting meetings later on Mondays and wrapping up earlier on Fridays. There are also fewer noon meetings, which may point to people taking a midday break. More employees are also using their vacation time, with out-of-office time blocks on calendars increasing by 10% in the past year,” the report said. While 9-11 a.m. is the most used meeting time, 2-3 p.m. is rising in popularity, it found.   

“While meetings are up overall, they are getting shorter and more ad hoc. As employees find digital equivalents to the “drive by” or “hallway” conversation, unscheduled, ad hoc calls have risen 8% in the past two years and now make up 64% of all Teams meetings,” the report with the findings said.   

Further, meetings under 15 minutes now make up a majority of all meetings (60%) and are increasing more than any other meeting length (39% between February 2021 and 2022). The data also shows the shift to asynchronous work as part of the new normal. Monthly use of meeting recordings that allow people to catch up on meetings, training, and town halls on demand has more than doubled since March 2020.  

New patterns like the ‘triple peak day’ are emerging as some people leave the 9 to 5 behind to do what works for them. According to another Microsoft post, knowledge workers earlier commonly had two productivity peaks in their workday – before lunch and after lunch. Now, a third peak has emerged for some in the hours before bedtime, Microsoft had said in another report.   

“Because everyone is working at different times and in different places, it’s important to shift as much work as you can to be asynchronous and get really intentional about the use of the synchronous time you have together,” said Microsoft’s Chief Scientist Jaime Teevan in the report.  

NOTE: For more on this topic, catch the latest issue of 'BT-Taggd Best Companies to Work For in India' which hits the stands this week.