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It Could Have Been An Email: Meetings Flood Hybrid Workplaces

The staggered and decentralized return to the office means more meetings for everyone.

A new future of decentralized work and flexible schedules is making an age-old menace of office workers even worse. Hybrid workplaces are finding that as teams and employees transition to new schedules and patterns, the volume of meetings is growing significantly. 

According to a recent Wall Street Journal piece, many workers feel like they’re drowning in meetings. Burnout from meetings was real before the coronavirus pandemic, and throughout the large-scale shift to remote work, many meetings actually became shorter. But as more and more offices return or shift to hybrid schedules, the need to check in and coordinate with colleagues in and out of the office has led to more frequent meetings. Numerous studies from Harvard and the business consultancy Gartner have found that remote workdays have lengthened since the start of the pandemic, in large part due to more meetings.

An April survey commissioned by Doodle, a scheduling tool, found 69% of 1,000 full-time remote workers said the number of meetings they need to attend had increased since spring of 2020, and 56%, a clear majority, felt this calendar gridlock had hurt their job performance.   

Part of the challenge is the fluid nature of where and when people work today. It’s hard to find everyone in the same place, which used to be the conference room or Zoom, but now can be a combination of both. In addition, there are evolving ethics about how best to keep in touch with remote colleagues that can make it more challenging to manage and message across larger teams. Companies are also investing in new meeting rooms and audiovisual setups to make communication between in-office and remote teammates more efficient. 

In response to this flood of meeting requests, many firms and companies are changing their calendars and introducing the concept of core hours, a block of time, typically midday, when employees are expected to be ready to meet. Hours outside those boundaries are considered meeting-free zones.