How have our day-to-day work behaviors and experiences changed during the pandemic?

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) studied this very question, with a focus on how COVID-19 impacted digital communication and the length of our work days.

Here’s a look at some of the key insights from their study:

Meetings Have Shortened, but Have Become More Frequent 

The study found that employees have to attend roughly 13% more meetings, on average, than they did before the pandemic. Meanwhile, each meeting now has nearly 14% more attendees, on average. 

The increases to both numbers might be explained by the fact that the pandemic has brought new challenges that require higher-than-normal collaboration and alignment between stakeholders. 

Interestingly, the average length of meetings has decreased by roughly 20%, on average. Perhaps, it’s because employees find it difficult to stay engaged in longer meetings as they deal with all of the distractions from working at home. Another possible explanation: Shorter meetings could help replicate the impromptu interactions that normally take place in an office.

Employees are Working Longer Hours and Sending More Emails

According to their research, each employee is sending, on average, 5% more emails per day, with each including 3% more recipients, on average, than it did prior to the pandemic.

This rise is likely a reflection of the fact that people are relying on email more than ever to communicate with colleagues.

More surprising, the NBER found that employee work days have dramatically lengthened (by 48.5 minutes, or a little over 8%, on average).

Note: They measured the average workday by an employee’s first email or meeting to their last over a 24 hour period.

One potential reason is that work demands, coupled with new personal demands, make it difficult to complete tasks within normal working hours. Another possible cause might be that employees are facing more pressure to deliver for their businesses, both in an effort to prevent their businesses from suffering and to protect their job security during this weak economy.

How Can You Respond to These Trends? 

Longer working hours, more frequent meetings, and a heavier reliance on using email can be a recipe for employee burnout. Many organizations are well aware of these trends, and are addressing them proactively. GitLab, for instance, has implemented a family and friends-first, work-second culture; while Veeva Systems has implemented a top-down approach where executives block off personal time on their calendars (learn more about both approaches by watching this webinar). 

Whether these trends apply to your organization or not, it’s worth revisiting how your employee behaviors have evolved during the pandemic. You can use that insight to better inform the steps you take in supporting your team.

Anusha Kuppahally
About Anusha Kuppahally

Anusha is currently studying Business at Georgetown University. She's excited to learn from and write about the Business Systems Community as she earns her degree.