If someone was to ask me I felt that, on average, were people working more, or less, during the pandemic I think my gut feel would be less. Not that I don’t think most people want to work, it’s just so much got shut down and so many jobs went remote, it would seem natural that most people worked less.
Our perception of how long we work, as an employee, is truly warped! I wrote a post years ago on the lie of working an 80 hour week and I get so much strong reaction to that post to this day! An 80-hour workweek is super rare, but the amount of people who claim to work that much is exponentially higher!
A new COVID-19 study on our work habits came out recently and the findings are fascinating. The study looked at meta-data from calendars and emails from over 3 million users. So, it wasn’t interview data, which tend to be a bit more subjective. Here are some of the findings:
- So during the Pandemic, our meetings have increased by 12.9% per person
- The number of people in our meetings has increased 13.5%.
- But, the average length of our meetings has decreased by 20.1%!
- The net effect is we are spending about 11.5% less time in meetings.
So, we are having more meetings being remote, but spending less time meeting, which probably has a lot to do with virtual meeting technologies like Zoom, Teams, etc. If you are face to face in a conference room you probably tend to linger around and socialize more. We don’t do that as much on digital meetings.
The other major finding was that our average work time per day has increased by 8.2% or roughly an additional 48 minutes per day! So, it would look like we are working more, not less. How can that be!?
Let’s go back to the perception of how long we think we work. Most people have some commute time when going to work. On average that’s anywhere from 30-90 minutes per day. If you work remotely, you have zero commute time, but you now might check your email first thing in the morning before that first cup of coffee. So, while you normal in-office workday might start at 8:30 am, now maybe you’re checking email by 7:30 or 8:00 am.
Our actual workday probably has extended on the ends. When you have a remote office you tend to have more flexibility when you work. Put the kids down, and return some messages at 9 pm. So, our calendars and our emails are showing this day extension, but it can’t show the flexibility we enjoy throughout the day to go throw a load of laundry in or enjoy breakfast and lunch with our family or run out for a quick trip to the store midday.
So, we’ve extended when we will do work to a longer path throughout the day, but we also added in a ton of flexibility. More meetings, less time in meetings, interacting with more people, and a longer tail of when we allow ourselves to work. Welcome to the new world of remote working!