'Course-Correct' Underway in Modern Offices

Stats show too many workers losing too much time to emails, meetings
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2023 8:30 AM CDT
Our Modern Workweek: 2 Days of Email, Meetings
   (Getty / golubovy)

For many modern workers, something has to give: New stats show they're losing two days of their workweek to emails and meetings. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the snapshot comes from Microsoft, which looked at how people spend their time with the company's business apps. The most active users of such apps spend an average of 8.8 hours a week either reading or writing emails, and another 7.7 hours logged into meetings. And that doesn't account for another common form of office communication—instant messaging. All in all, the average employee spends 57% of their time chatting, emailing, or sitting in meetings, virtually or otherwise, per the Journal.

"People feel quite overwhelmed, a sense of feeling like they have two jobs, the job they were hired to do, but then they have this other job of communicating, coordinating, and collaborating," says Microsoft researcher Jared Spataro. As CNBC notes, part of the problem stems from the shift to remote work that began during the pandemic. For example, the stats show a 192% increase in Microsoft Teams meetings and calls per week since February 2020. "Now, three years later, companies are trying to course-correct, finding ways to make in-person and virtual meetings more efficient and less frequent," writes CNBC's Morgan Smith.

The gist among critics is not that all Zoom work meetings are bad—it's that too many are unfocused, with too many people who don't need to be there. "The key is to not invite someone to a meeting unless you are absolutely certain that they belong there, and you can tell them why," Rita J. King of the workplace-consulting firm Science House tells the Journal. The problem for some workers is that, as things currently stand, they don't have enough time to do their actual work, which can translate into longer weeks. One software project manager interviewed suggests carving out blocks of time for "heads-down work," sans interruptions of any kind. (More workplace stories.)

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