Leaders Must Step-Up to Help Overloaded, Overworked, and Defocused Remote Teams

From the series Productivity Tips by CEOs

Three weeks ago, we published some exclusive Work From Home data. It clearly demonstrated the state of how company teams are collaborating in the digital office environment — people are having more meetings, and with more people than ever. We have all heard it and seen it — “Zoom Fatigue” became a thing, but I believe it just sheds light on a problem that has already been around for a while — Meetingitis (too many meetings in organizations). Teams are overwhelmed with too many meetings before and during the pandemic. Yet companies are still not taking any action and it’s hurting productivity…

Now is the time for change. This is not the first time in history we are redesigning the workplace. It is the first time when we can do it with data.

But first, let’s discuss what’s new in Productivity & Collaboration:

  • Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom says: “If I started over with the company, I’m not going to have a single physical office. A lot of people asked me ‘are you crazy?’ They realize that’s reality now.” Let’s have data show how different distributed vs. physical companies are. Time (and data!) will tell.
  • Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google says: “Our campuses are designed to enable collaboration and community — in fact, some of our greatest innovations were the result of chance encounters in the office — and it’s clear this is something many of us don’t want to lose.”
  • Daniel Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack says: their employees will be allowed to work from home indefinitely, really? Slack has also just filed an antitrust complaint with the EU about Microsoft abusing dominant behavior with Teams. Slack says Microsoft should not bundle Teams for free with the dominant Office 365. Yes, Slack is right. Microsoft will likely end up paying a speeding ticket to the EU, life will go on. And Slack itself should probably be more open about its own Slack Analytics — today, it doesn’t give much, perhaps hiding its real usage due to Slack making work even more taxing?
  • Microsoft released data on their remote workforce in the HBR — which confirmed our findings in our latest Work from Home Study. We both discovered that there are more meetings, they are shorter, and that certain events like 1:1 meetings did change this behavior if presented early.

This is not the first time in history we are redesigning the workplace. It is the first time when we can do it with data.

Overload & Overtime & Lack of Focus

Since analyzing clients at the early stages of shifting to remote work environments, from the number of their meetings, Slack, and emails — we discovered that there might not be a lot of focus — but even in creative jobs that really should have 2–3 focus. This might have changed during Working from Home more than we thought — bringing focus down to potentially just tens of minutes per employee. We are studying focus time more and more at Time is Limited using data from our Office 365 and G Suite Analytics.

It seriously shocks me that companies don’t use this data at scale, and seek to understand how this data could be used to support their teams.

What Should Companies Do?

  1. Regroup and reorganize time — Look at how meetings are organized and possibly reorganize, regroup, shorten, or perhaps even remove some weekly recurring meetings — and do this on a regular basis
  2. Give teams their the data — We should empower our teams to analyze and leverage behavioral data so they can see how time is allocated/used at the team level — let them make their own decisions
  3. Enforce good new habits — Use data from the COVID pandemic to better improve your workforce. Maybe there are habits — such as large team meetings that were in-person, but that you’d want to keep virtual forever.
  4. Increase focus time of your teams — Understanding how much focus time the teams have can help to optimize it. Discuss it with your team.
  5. Overtime — Team managers should assess whether parts of their teams work overtime at home, and compare it to their past behavior.

To conclude: I hope that large companies learn how to help improve and support their remote teams to thrive while working at home. The first step starts with data.

When I have the data, what now? I believe when you have access to the data, you should be able to see the most critical elements.