Remote Workers Are Spending More Time in Meetings—Here’s How to Recoup Some Time

Remote Workers Are Spending More Time in Meetings—Here’s How to Recoup Some Time

New internal data from Clockwise shows how COVID-19 has impacted remote workers’ calendars: one key finding is that they are spending more time in meetings. 

Clockwise optimizes calendars for tens of thousands of users in hundreds of companies, including Slack, Asana, and Spotify, so they could see exactly what employee schedules and time allocation looks like, and specifically, whether working from home is making workers more or less busy. They found that remote employees work longer hours, and have busier days and even more hectic calendars than in-office workers do. 

“The last few months have challenged workers, more than ever, to find the time to actually get work done during increasingly hectic days,” said Matt Martin, co-founder and CEO of Clockwise. “While you might expect companies across the country switching to work-from-home would mean fewer meetings, workers are attending more meetings than ever.” 

Since the larger-scale move to remote work, employees are spending an extra one to one-and-a-half hours per week in team sync meetings (a 29% increase) and 24% more time in one on ones. The data also revealed work-from-home employees experienced an 11% increase in “fragmented time.” These are blocks of work time that are shorter than two hours, in contrast to “focus time,” which allows two-plus hours of uninterrupted time for focused work. According to Martin, this is likely due to managers trying to replicate in-office collaboration remotely.

Martin shared additional insights from this data with and explained how you, as a remote worker, can better manage your time in light of these realities. So if you’re ready to recoup more of your workday toward productively working toward your goals and get meaningful work done despite losing more hours to Zoom and tech connections, read on!

Balance Connection With Productivity

“While staying connected to our colleagues is clearly important, it’s also worth wrestling with what all these meetings are doing to our productivity,” Martin said. “Research shows that turning away from focused work to attend a meeting impacts productivity in a big way.” 

The CEO pointed out that when you switch tasks, it takes a long time to get back to the level of efficiency you were at before you were interrupted. Some studies put the average at 25 minutes and 26 seconds. Other studies put it at 23 minutes. Either way, that’s a major derailing, so it’s important to have strategies in place like the ones that follow to help you balance time for meetings and team-connection points with opportunities to concentrate on work without your focus being constantly disturbed.

Don’t Accept Every Meeting Invite

Martin suggested that to claw back your time, you should be more selective when possible about what you commit to in terms of meetings.

“Many workers are accepting every meeting invitation right now to show they’re a team player and prove that they’re actually working now that they’re working from home,” Martin explained. “But that’s likely a mistake, long-term.” 

Instead, he said it’s wise to take a few minutes to “lightly audit” your calendar in order to better quantify what percentage of your time you’re currently spending in meetings, decide how essential each meeting really is, and identify opportunities to spend your time more effectively. 

Leverage Your Slack Status

If you use Slack for online collaboration, one way to decrease interruptions while working from home, according to Martin, is to take advantage of Slack statuses to inform team members of your availability—and lack of it—at different times of the day.

“In Slack, you can add a little symbol next to your name to indicate whether you’re available—in focus time, in a meeting, or outside your working hours,” he said. “It’s already tough to disengage [from the office] when you’re working from home. But this helps you get fewer notifications when you’re outside your working hours.” 

Martin added that using your Slack status strategically can also help you avoid notifications when you’re involved in focus time, and let you know when your teammates in different time zones are outside their working hours. 

Don’t Double-Book Calls and Work in Shifts 

An added challenge of working from home comes when you’re sharing the space with a spouse or other adult who is doing the same thing. Martin offered the following advice if you’re in this situation.

“If two people having concurrent conference calls in the same space sounds bad, try taking your calls when your partner isn’t taking theirs,” he said. “You can do this either by creating a calendar for your ‘conference room,’ a.k.a. wherever the best spot in the house for a work call is. Then each person puts all their calls on this calendar, being sure to never double-book.” 

Two-parent households with kids at home can also work in shifts for maximum productivity and greater ability to schedule calls and meetings. For example, you might have one parent responsible for the kids until lunchtime, and the other for the afternoon, then tag-team at dinner, or schedule “parenting shifts” for specific hours throughout the day. You can post each parent’s shift on a family calendar alongside other commitments to clarify duties. 

On a related note, Martin explained that a final way to keep meetings from eating up your productivity is to schedule blocks of focus time on your calendar like any other time-sensitive priority. “This tells you, and others, that you’re not available,” the CEO concluded. 

Get More Done By Doing Less

It might sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes you’ll accomplish more when you say “no” instead of “yes.” And while you won’t be able to get out of every meeting, you may find that setting aside time for focused work (and sticking to it) helps you accomplish more in less time.

For more advice on how to work productively and minimize interruptions, check out our blog.

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By Robin Madell | Categories: Work Remotely

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