The label for remote work meetings are weird. You don’t have to wear pants, but letting your eyes sneak around your screen can seem rude and disrespectful, a gift that distracts you from another digital task. And once you turn off the camera, multitasking can mean folding laundry, shopping, or whatever needs to be done.
If you tend to multitask in video conferences, you’re not alone. A new study by Microsoft Employees are finding that people multitask more often in increasingly long meetings, and that multitasking occurs much more often in recurring meetings than in ad hoc meetings. Meetings held in the morning have higher multitasking rates than at other times of the day, and multitasking occurs six times more often in video conferences longer than 80 minutes compared to meetings of 20 minutes or less.
Microsoft shared details of what it calls the largest multitasking and remote teams study to date this week as part of a human-machine interaction conference. Researchers of Amazon, Microsoft and University College London examined the Outlook email activity logs and OneDrive cloud files of nearly 100,000 U.S. Microsoft employees to get a sense of how often people multitask. during videoconferences and why.
“Remote meetings provide the ability to just attend a meeting of sorts,” says Microsoft Chief Scientist Jaime Teevan. “You can skip a meeting and watch it at double speed if it has been recorded. You can play it in the background while you do other things and listen to the important points. “
The study shows that multitasking in virtual meetings is a coping mechanism to protect people’s mental well-being from… too many virtual meetings. Senior author and Microsoft Research intern Hancheng Cao said the findings highlight the need for employers to have more flexible attitudes about multitasking for remote teams. Your coworker whose eyes sometimes flick around the screen might not mean being rude, but as virtual meetings pile up and drag on, the study says “people seem to have had less time to focus on their work and have therefore gotten into the habit of multitasking to catch up.
Log data was collected between February and May 2020, during which time Microsoft became a fully remote workforce. Anytime someone in a Microsoft Teams video call sent, forwarded, or replied to an email or edited a file such as a PowerPoint presentation or an Excel spreadsheet saved in OneCloud, that action was saved as multitasking. (Much of the multitasking – like reading emails or scrolling through social media – could not be detected with this methodology.) In 30% of the meetings, the study found that people were sending emails. emails.
To uncover specific ways in which people multitask, the study coauthors reviewed agendas or statements made by approximately 700 Microsoft employees in the United States and abroad during approximately the same time period. About 15 percent of newspaper respondents said they believe multitasking makes them more productive.
Some multitasking tasks, such as taking notes or viewing documents discussed, help people stay focused. But newspapers also showed people exercising, playing video games, and watching cat videos. You might call it distractions, but respondents described activities as coping with or responding to a meeting that was irrelevant to them.
Newspapers also suggest that many people multitask to keep pace. As one Microsoft employee put it, “It has to happen or you can’t do all your work.” Almost four in ten newspaper respondents said they had to work during meetings to cope with the proliferation of virtual meetings in their schedules as they moved to work from home. The study’s co-authors claim that multitasking to meet productivity demands can lead to mental fatigue and cause people. to show disrespectful behavior towards others.