The greatest productivity drain of remote work may be neither childcare nor even YouTube — but rather adults’ challenge to stay focused when a meeting is…well…unfocused.
In-meeting multitasking is a reality for about 30% of all remote meetings.
Stanford University in collaboration with Microsoft and Amazon conducted a large scale research of multitasking behavior during remote meetings.
How do we multitask during meetings and why is your hybrid team multitasking during your meetings?
~30% remote meetings involved email multitasking. ~25% meetings involved file multitasking.
More multitasking happens
in long meetingsThe odds of email multitasking in 20-40 minute meetings, 40-80 minute meetings, and >80 minute meetings are 1.96, 3.22 and 6.21 times the odds of 0-20 minutes meetings.
Many people mention that they simply cannot concentrate for a long time.
More multitasking happens
in large meetingsThe odds of email multitasking in 3 attendee meetings, 4-5 attendee meetings, 6-10 attendee meetings, and >10 attendee meetings are 1.12, 1.39, 1.70 and 2.16 times the odds of the meetings with only 1-2 attendees.
Participants more actively focus on the meeting conversations when the meetings are small.
More multitasking happens in recurring and scheduled meetings
compared to ad hoc meetingsThe odds of email multitasking in recurring and scheduled meetings is 1.59 and 1.31 times the odds of multitasking in ad hoc meetings.
Ad hoc meetings generally involve a specific focus relevant to the specific attendees.
involve more multitaskingThe odds of multitasking in the morning are 1.86 times the odds of the after hour meeting baseline.
In the afternoon people are generally more focused.
More multitasking happens Monday through Thursday
compared to FridayThe odds of email multitasking on Tuesday are 1.35 times the odds of multitasking on Friday, followed by Monday (1.23 times), Wednesday (1.19 times) and Thursday (1.19 times).
The companies studied encouraged fewer meetings on Friday, so this finding might be company-specific.
What are the learnings and guidelines for remote meetings? How do you combat your hybrid team multitasking?
The study shares five (5) recommendations for running meetings with remote participants:
1. Avoid important meetings in the morning
– Morning meetings coincide with peaks in email activity
– Prior evidence also suggests that people are most focused in mid afternoons.
2. Reduce the number of unnecessary meetings
– Consider sharing information asynchronously.
3. Shorten meeting duration and insert breaks
– Humans have an upper time limit where they can fully engage and pay attention.
4. Encourage active contribution from the appropriate number of attendees
– Use stimulating interactions, especially if it is a large meeting with a variety of attendees.
5. Allow space for positive multitasking
– Consider personalized meeting agenda so that people are aware of the timing when relevant agenda items come up.
– Consider a convention where video-on implies full attention, and video-off signals multitasking.
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