Out of sight, but not out of mind: How remote meetings are getting smarter and shorter
When the world shifted to remote work in 2020, concerns about employee disengagement were on the rise. How could teams collaborate effectively when they were miles apart and communicating only through screens?
However, new research by Andrew Brodsky, an assistant professor of management at Texas McCombs, published in Harvard Business Review, suggests that remote meetings are evolving in surprising ways, bringing employees closer together, not farther apart.
Brodsky's research analysed metadata from Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx meetings in 10 large global organisations spanning different fields. The findings were striking: remote meetings have become shorter, more frequent, smaller, and more spontaneous since 2020.
READ MORE | 5 green benefits of remote work
"Remote workers seem to be becoming less engaged, but rather – at least with respect to meetings – they are becoming more engaged with their colleagues," says Brodsky. "This data also suggests that remote interactions are shifting to more closely mirror in-person interactions."
One of the most notable changes is the decrease in meeting length. In 2020, the average remote meeting lasted 43 minutes, but by 2022, it had decreased by 25% to just 33 minutes. Employees are finding ways to be more efficient with their time, keeping meetings focused and to the point, without sacrificing productivity.
More frequent meetings
But it's not just about shorter meetings. Remote teams are also meeting more frequently. In 2022, there were 59% more remote meetings per employee compared to 2020, with each employee attending an average of 5 to 8 meetings per week. This increase in frequency allows for more opportunities to collaborate and exchange ideas, keeping remote teams connected and engaged.
The size of remote meetings has also changed dramatically. In 2020, the average number of participants per meeting was 20, but by 2022, it had dropped by half to just 10 participants. Smaller meetings allow for more intimate discussions and increased participation, giving employees a chance to contribute and be heard. This change was largely driven by the rise of 1-on-1 meetings, which have become more prevalent in remote work settings.
READ MORE | Why bosses and workers differ on return to office
More spontaneous meetings
What's even more surprising is the spontaneity of remote meetings. In 2020, only 17% of 1-on-1 meetings were unscheduled, but by 2022, a whopping 66% of 1-on-1 meetings were unscheduled, indicating that remote employees are finding ways to connect with their colleagues on the fly. These impromptu meetings are becoming a way to compensate for the loss of casual interactions that happen naturally in an in-person office setting.
"The combination of these findings presents an interesting picture," says Brodsky. "Remote employees may be beginning to compensate for the loss of those interactions by increasingly having impromptu meetings remotely."
So, while remote work may have its challenges, the evolution of remote meetings is proving to be encouraging. Employees are finding ways to connect, collaborate, and engage with each other more closely, even when they are physically apart.
As the world continues to adapt to the changing landscape of work, remote teams are discovering new and innovative ways to stay connected and thrive in a virtual environment. After all, as the old saying goes, where there's a Zoom, there's a way!