Virtually Losing Hours!

1st July 2024

Posted In: The Topic

Over a third (37%) of Irish professional state that their workday is ‘regularly’ interrupted by virtual calls.

Only recently online retailer ASOS warned its staff that virtual (in lieu of face-to-face) meetings were having a ‘detrimental’ impact on the company’s performance.

Now a new poll from specialist recruitment company Robert Walters has found that virtual meetings are regularly interrupting professionals’ from their work-at-hand, with over half stating that their individual productivity is hampered.

Suzanne Feeney, Country Manager at Robert Walters comments:”Throughout the pandemic, virtual meetings were indispensable for maintaining communication and connection with our colleagues and teams.

“However, the tide is now shifting – as more professionals return to the office, we’re still seeing Teams or Zoom meetings being scheduled for things that could be more efficiently and effectively handled through a brief message or email.”

Losing hours in the working-day

Over a quarter (27%) of professionals admit having over five virtual meetings a day in their diaries, whilst a third having up to 4 – with the average video call taking up to 30 minutes this could mean that between 2-2.5 hours are being taken away from professionals’ average workday.

Late last year Slack found that anything over two hours’ worth of meetings per work-day actually reduces professional’s productivity levels.

Suzanne notes:

“Meetings make up a vital part of almost everyone’s work day, but managers and senior leaders must be careful that they are using virtual meetings to aid productivity not hamper it.”

Productivity not guaranteed

On the flip side – when professionals were asked about how productive they found virtual meetings, over half (45%) stated it was entirely dependent on the meeting – with some being quite productive, whilst others felt like a waste of time.

A further 12% thought virtual meetings were not very productive at all.

The poll also revealed that a fifth of meetings are held virtually despite up to half of the attendees being in the same office.

Suzanne comments: “The success / productivity of a virtual meeting is dependent on a range of factors like who has organised the call, the number of attendees, whether there is clear plan of proceedings, what will be addressed and how engaged each person is.

“Unlike in person meetings, during virtual meetings body-language or other social cues can be missed, hindering the natural flow of conversation. This can lead to professionals’ ‘zoning-out’ or even turning off their camera to hide the fact they are doing other things.”

Indeed – a recent study from academics at the University of Galway found that people taking part in virtual meetings experience more fatigue from seeing themselves on-screen.

Generational differences

Resoundingly – 59% of Gen-Z cite messaging apps such as MS Teams or WhatsApp as their preferred form of communication – whilst 28% of professionals over 27 years prefer email.

Only 7% of professionals of all ages prefer virtual meetings when they are looking to get their heads down, and get things done.

Suzanne comments: “Simple questions, even catch-ups or handovers can sometimes be more easily addressed in a quick message or email chain – resulting in less disruption to professionals’ actual working time.”

Coming together

The poll also asked professionals what would be their team’s preferred form of communication to make important business decisions – over three-fifths (62%) voted for an in-person meeting, with half the amount (31%) of professionals opting for a video-call.

Suzanne adds: “In-person meetings give teams the chance to discuss the work-at-hand but also to catch-up and brainstorm informally, helping them feel connected to both their work and their team – even easing the stresses of their working day – benefits which are often lost when held virtually.”

Suzanne concludes:

“Behind every successful workplace, is clear and consistent communication at all levels.

“Maintaining this requires a tailored approach – assessing the most effective ways of communicating without placing on over-reliance on any single one to ensure professionals’ always get the most out of their workday and sidestep burnout.”