In a recent poll conducted by recruitment company Robert Walters, 73 percent of UK professionals reported that their productivity is hampered by virtual meetings.

The survey highlights significant concerns about the impact of these meetings on work efficiency and focus.

The poll found that a quarter of UK professionals have over five virtual meetings per day, with a third having up to four. Given that the average video call lasts around 30 minutes, this translates to 2-2.5 hours of their workday consumed by meetings. Last year, Slack revealed that exceeding two hours of meetings per day diminishes productivity levels.

Daniel Harris, Director of Robert Walters London & South East, remarked, “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.”

Productivity Not Guaranteed

The poll uncovered mixed feelings about the productivity of virtual meetings. While 56 percent of respondents said the productivity of virtual meetings varied, 13 percent found them generally unproductive. Surprisingly, a third of these meetings occur virtually even when up to half of the attendees are in the same office.

“The success of a virtual meeting depends on various factors such as the organiser, the number of attendees, the clarity of the agenda, and the engagement of participants,” Harris explained. “Unlike in-person meetings, virtual ones can miss body language and social cues, which can disrupt the natural flow of conversation and lead to participants ‘zoning out’ or turning off their cameras to multitask.”

A recent YouGov study found that up to 12 percent of UK professionals, increasing to 21 percent among 18-29 year olds, admitted to taking toilet breaks during work video calls.

Generational Differences

The survey also revealed generational differences in communication preferences. While 62 percent of Gen-Z prefer messaging apps like MS Teams or WhatsApp, a third of professionals over 27 years old favour email. Notably, only 5 percent of professionals prefer virtual meetings when they need to focus and get things done.

“Simple questions, 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,” noted Harris.

In-Person Meetings Preferred for Important Decisions

When it comes to making important business decisions, 67 percent of professionals prefer in-person meetings, compared to 31 percent who would opt for a video call.

“In-person meetings allow teams to discuss work while also providing opportunities for informal catch-ups and brainstorming, which help them feel connected to their work and team,” Harris added. “These benefits are often lost in virtual settings.”

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.