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You're Right! You Are Working Longer and Attending More Meetings


Work-from-home employees whose days seem longer, with more meetings and emails than ever before, may find a new Harvard Business School study validating.


An analysis of the emails and meetings of 3.1 million people in 16 global cities found that the average workday increased by 8.2 percent—or 48.5 minutes—during the pandemic’s early weeks. Employees also participated in more meetings, though for less time than they did before COVID-19 sent many workers home.


“There is a general sense that we never stop being in front of Zoom or interacting,” says Raffaella Sadun, professor of business administration in the HBS Strategy Unit. “It’s very taxing, to be honest.”


Shifting to remote work at the start of the pandemic stripped away whatever was left of the elusive 9-to-5 business day and replaced it with videoconferencing and “asynchronous work.” With at least 16 percent of Americans planning to keep working from home part of the time after COVID-19 abates, researchers are probing how virtual interaction might reshape organizations.


In the first large-scale analysis of digital communication early in the crisis, the team—Sadun; Jeffrey T. Polzer, the UPS Foundation Professor of Human Resource Management; HBS doctoral candidate Evan DeFilippis; New York University doctoral student Stephen Michael Impink; and former HBS research associate Madison Singell—studied aggregated, anonymous emails and meeting invitations of employees at 21,500 companies in North America, Europe, and the Middle East.


“THERE IS A GENERAL SENSE THAT WE NEVER STOP BEING IN FRONT OF ZOOM OR INTERACTING. IT’S VERY TAXING, TO BE HONEST.”

“The role of an office is to congregate and help people work together,” Sadun says. “For us, the question was, ‘What happens when you cannot have that physical space anymore?’ How do people adjust their work patterns?”

Longer days and more check-ins

The team compared the frequency and timing of emails sent within and outside organizations eight weeks before the start of pandemic-related lockdowns and eight weeks after. On average, they found that:

  • Employees sent 5.2 percent more emails a day.

  • Emails had 2.9 percent more recipients.

  • About 8.3 percent more emails were sent after business hours.

Read More at https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/you-re-right-you-are-working-longer-and-attending-more-meetings

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