Last updated: Driven to distraction: Microsoft study reveals meeting overload

Driven to distraction: Microsoft study reveals meeting overload


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If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, you’re not alone. All the meetings, emails, and virtual chats are making it hard for employees to focus and get things done, according to the new Microsoft Work Trend Index.

Sixty-eight percent of the 31,000 people surveyed in 31 countries said they don’t have enough uninterrupted focus time in their work day.

The study, which analyzed trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals and data from the LinkedIn Economic Graph, showed the crushing weight of the modern work day:
  • 57% of the average employee’s time is spent in meetings, email, and chat
  • 43% is spent creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations
  • The heaviest meeting users spend 7.5 hours a week in meetings
  • The heaviest email users spend 8.8 hours a week on email

Sixty percent of leaders polled said all these productivity drains are hurting innovation.

“In a world where creativity is the new productivity, digital debt is more than an inconvenience—it’s impacting business,” Microsoft said.

No. 1 productivity killer: Lousy meetings

What can really set a worker’s teeth on edge is time wasted in a meeting that accomplishes nothing. Inefficient meetings are the top productivity disruptor, Microsoft found. Too many meetings came in third.

Since early 2020, the number of meetings has grown: Workers are in three times as many Teams meetings and calls per week.

The explosion of virtual meetings, triggered by the pandemic, has led to a lot of disorganized, unproductive meetings, according to the study:

  • 58% of survey participants said it’s hard to effectively brainstorm in a virtual meeting
  • 55% said it’s hard to know what the next steps are once a meeting concludes
  • 56% said it’s difficult to summarize what happened

AI to the rescue?

Microsoft, which is beginning to roll out its Microsoft 365 Copilot with AI capabilities, says artificial intelligence can help relieve overwhelmed workers.

“This new generation of AI will remove the drudgery of work and unleash creativity,” Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO, Microsoft, said in a prepared statement. “There’s an enormous opportunity for AI-powered tools to help alleviate digital debt, build AI aptitude, and empower employees.”

The work trends index, which Microsoft conducts every year, showed that while 49% of workers are worried AI will replace them, 70% are eager to offload as much as possible to AI.

  • 76% would use AI for administrative tasks
  • 79% would use it for analytical work
  • 73% would use it for creative work

Business leaders, meanwhile, are excited about the potential for AI and are twice as likely to use it to boost productivity instead of cutting workers, the survey found.

At the same time, 82% of leaders expect employees will need new skills as businesses incorporate more AI into their processes.

“As AI reshapes work, human-AI collaboration will be the next transformational work pattern—and the ability to work iteratively with AI will be a key skill for every employee,” Microsoft said.

HR, better.
Employees, happier.
Businesses, healthier.
It’s time to modernize the employee experience.

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