Remote workers are not slacking off — they’re actually sitting in more meetings now

AUSTIN, Texas — If you think working from home means you’re not stuck in meetings anymore, think again! Employees are having eight extra meetings a week and communicate even more with their colleagues since remote work became the new normal, a recent study finds.

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin discovered people working from home were actually “more engaged” with their colleagues than before the pandemic. In a challenge to widespread concern that employees were becoming disengaged by working remotely, scientists found that meetings happened 59 percent more frequently in 2022 compared with 2020 — going from five to eight meetings a week per employee.

Work patterns have become drastically more spontaneous too. Between 2020 and 2022, unscheduled one-on-one meetings skyrocketed from 17 percent to 66 percent, the study reveals. This change was almost solely due to unscheduled meetings increasing, because scheduled meetings remained as common as before, the team reports.

Researchers also discovered time spent in remote meetings has shrunk by 25 percent, from 43 minutes in 2020 to 33 minutes in 2022. Group numbers in each meeting dropped by half, reportedly primarily driven by more people setting up one-on-ones versus collectives. An average of 20 employees sat in each meeting pre-pandemic, but that fell to 10 in 2022.

Study authors gathered metadata from all Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx meetings from 10 large global organizations across a variety of fields. Andrew Brodsky, assistant professor of management at the McCombs School of Business says the data refutes arguments that working from home makes employees less engaged.

“The combination of these findings presents an interesting picture: not that remote workers seem to be becoming less engaged, but rather—at least with respect to meetings — they are becoming more engaged with their colleagues,” Brodsky says, writing in Harvard Business Review.

“This data also suggests that remote interactions are shifting to more closely mirror in-person interactions.”

“Whereas there have been substantial concerns that employees are missing out on the casual and spontaneous rich interactions that happen in-person, these findings indicate that remote employees may be beginning to compensate for the loss of those interactions by increasingly having impromptu meetings remotely,” the study author concludes.

South West News Service writer Pol Allingham contributed to this report.

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