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December 6, 2021

Employees’ Digital Overload and What You Can Do About It


Much has been said about the stress and pressure that COVID-19 put on the workforce, including workers on the front-line and those who lost their jobs. But the human cost of the pandemic goes further—in the digital overload for those who work remotely.

Analysis of Microsoft Collaboration Tools Reveals Substantial Increase in Usage

The 2021 Microsoft Work Trend Index measured the impact of the pandemic for 30,000 full-time workers from 31 markets: 54% said they feel overworked and 39% feel exhausted. The story becomes even more vivid in the analysis of data from Microsoft 365 collaboration tools:

  • The average Teams meeting is 10 minutes longer, up from 35 to 45 minutes year-over-year.
  • The average Teams user is sending 45% more chats per week and 42% more chats per person after hours.
  • Time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings more than doubled (2.5X) globally between February 2020 and February 2021.
  • The number of emails delivered to commercial and education customers in February 2021, when compared to the same month the year before, was up by 40.6 billion.
  • Despite the significant increase in communications that were largely unplanned—62% of Teams calls and meetings were unscheduled or conducted ad hoc—people still felt pressure to respond promptly, increasing the intensity of the workday (50% responded to Teams chats in five minutes or less).

Do these numbers resonate with you? Can you relate to working longer hours at increased intensity, even if you are able to work from home? In the midst of the "Great Resignation," when nearly half of U.S. employees are thinking about changing jobs, it’s in an employer’s best interest to find ways to improve their work experience—even if it means taking a hard look at where improvements can be made.

If your organization uses these or other collaboration tools, you can examine your own data to uncover opportunities to lighten your employees’ load. Understanding today’s reality is the first step to identifying problem areas that can be addressed to protect employee wellbeing.

Opportunities to Lighten the Load for Your Employees

Here are some possible areas to strengthen the way your teams meet and manage their time:

  • Improve workflow and reduce email overload by collaborating with Teams or Slack instead of emailing to single recipients
  • Rethink recurring meetings to make the most of employees’ time:
    • If attendance is low, consider reducing the length or number of meetings
    • Revisit attendee lists to ensure only individuals who need to be included are invited
    • Require agendas and goals be included in meeting invitations to help employees prioritize
    • Look for high multitasking rates (email or chat being used during meetings) that suggest opportunities for improvement
  • Minimize long or large-audience meetings to reduce fatigue and open more time for people to focus
  • Evaluate the number of hours people spend in collaboration each week (i.e., meetings, video calls, chat) and look for ways to adjust workload as needed:
    • Multitasking can be a product of high overall collaboration that reduces focus time (too many meetings and not enough time to get work done)
    • Teams that spend more time collaborating during work hours also tend to have more collaboration after hours
  • Automate a mental break between meetings – ease the stress of transition from one to another by ending meetings early (e.g., meet for 25 vs. 30 minutes or 50 minutes instead of an hour). If you use Office 365 you can automate this in Outlook by following these steps: File > Options > Calendar > Shorten appointments and meetings > End early or Start Late.

What are your areas of opportunity with meetings and collaboration? What’s your first step to ease your employees’ load?

—David Grossman

In the spirit of giving, we want to pay it forward by giving away copies of Heart First. We’ll provide you, members of your team, and/or a leader you think will benefit with a copy (it’s on us!). Click below to select your option and submit your book order today!

Click to request a free copy of Heart First for you, your team, or a leader you know - The Grossman Group

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