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Remote work, lower engagement?

December 28, 2022

You may love it, or you may hate it. After the intensification of remote working that has taken place in recent years, some leaders have questioned the effectiveness of working from home – which added to the reduction in spontaneous meetings and conversations with employees. Studies such as Gallup have pointed to a drop in worker involvement this year, but the reasons are varied, and the discussion continues.

New research published by the Harvard Business Review now shows that remote workers in general are in fact becoming more engaged. To more deeply explore the nature of how remote collaboration is changing over time, Andrew Brodsky, a business professor at the University of Texas, and Mike Tolliver, product management director at Vyopta, gathered metadata from all Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Webex meetings from 10 large global organizations spanning a variety of fields, including technology, health care, energy, and financial services. They compared six-week snapshots of raw meeting counts from April through mid-May in 2020 following the Covid-19 lockdowns, and the same set of six weeks in 2021 and 2022.

The main findings: 

  • Remote meetings have become more frequent (60% more from 2020 to 2022)
  • Remote meetings have become shorter (from an average of 43 minutes per meeting in 2020 to 33 minutes in 2022)
  • Remote meetings have become smaller (from 20 participants per meeting in 2020 to 10 participants per meeting in 2022)
  • Remote meetings have become more spontaneous (from 17% to 66% of one-on-one unscheduled meetings) 
  • Workers who left their organization reversed the trends

“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.”, the authors wrote. “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.”

Source: HBR