Employees are finding ways to gain from ‘flexibility’, avoid digital exhaustion

With ‘after hours’ work becoming normal, the work day seems to have lengthened according to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index 2022, but employees have found ways to cope

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While employees are trying to embrace flexible and hybrid work wholeheartedly, the truth remains that the number of meetings and the time spent on official tasks ‘after work hours’ and on weekends, has certainly gone up since 2020. This may lead to digital exhaustion, unless something is done about this.

According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index 2022, while there is more flexibility, the risk of digital overload has gone up. There has been an increase in the number of meetings per week as well as individual chats. However, the positive thing is that these meetings are getting shorter.

Clearly, employees are doing everything possible to make the best out of the flexibility offered and manage their time efficiently. For instance, people are intentionally taking more frequent breaks, being cautious about double booking. They are following meeting-free hours too.

The study shows that the number of overlapping per person meetings has reduced by 44 per cent. Also, teams are consciously starting Monday meetings late and concluding Friday meetings earlier. Meetings during noon have also reduced, so that lunch time is free. The 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. time slot is the most frequently used for meetings, but the 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. slot is becoming more popular steadily.

About 10 per cent more employees are blocking dates on calendars for breaks and vacations.

As already mentioned, while the number of meetings may have increased, their lengths have reduced. They have also become more impromptu and informal.

An analysis of collaboration activity across Microsoft 365 tools over the past two years shows that unplanned calls have gone up eight per cent. In fact, they now comprise 64 per cent of all Teams meetings, and interestingly, a significant 60 per cent of the meetings last less than 15 minutes

Asynchronous work has become the norm. Not surprising, since people are working at different times and from different locations. Recordings of meetings are used to allow people to catch up not just on meetings but even trainings.

Employees are definitely doing whatever they can to make ‘flexibility’ work, but will they succeed in making it sustainable in the long run? Well, this can only happen if employees are not required to be ‘always available’ and ‘on’. This will require an organisation-wide movement, so that the hybrid work practices in place are more sustainable.

When it comes to emerging technologies, a good 52 per cent of employees are keen to use digital immersive spaces in the metaverse to organise meetings and team activities. A significant 47 per cent are willing to represent themselves as avatars in meetings as early as 2023.

About 51 per cent of GenZ and 48 per cent of Millennials see themselves doing at least some of their work in the metaverse by 2024.

Only a very small percentage (16 per cent) of employees expect to do no work in the metaverse. Only 13 per cent admitted to having no knowledge of the term ‘metaverse’.

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