Corona affects us all – especially at work. Almost all German knowledge workers are currently working from home. Obvious assumptions about how we used to get work done are suddenly overturned. Digitization was massively accelerated and we had to change faster than we were used to.

But how will COVID-19 and the lockdown affect us? I would particularly like to go into the permanent and current virtual collaboration. I have a Study from Asana found , which surveyed over 13,000 knowledge workers worldwide. In this article, I draw exciting findings from the study and comment on them. Above all, I deal with new challenges and recommendations for action on the challenges.

Reading tip: Digital workplace

New challenges for virtual teams since COVID-19

So what are these new challenges since COVID-19, or rather: which challenges are now more noticeable than before? I think it can be summed up in one word: video conferencing and a lot of that. Furthermore, the massive use of tools leads to a high information overload. For ourselves, this also increases the risk of burnout. But what do the specific numbers say? More on this in the following paragraphs.

Overhead, duplication and useless meetings

The study shows that 60% of a knowledge worker’s daily life is determined by coordination. Only 26% of the time is spent on skilled work and a full 14% on conceptual work. So we are mostly in the process of coordinating with others and talking about: How do we work and what? Furthermore, the interviewed knowledge workers were asked to rate the individual meetings. On average, 157 meeting hours per year were felt to be unnecessary. These are just under 4 weeks for an employee.

What are the reasons for the high cost of coordination? According to the study, it is a lack of clarity about roles, responsibilities and objectives. It even leads to employees using working time to do work that has already been done. According to the study, there are 236 hours of duplication per year per employee. This is almost 6 weeks of work for one employee.

Reading tip: The perfect zoom appearance

Context change and tool overload

We use tools for our daily work. According to the study, we switch back and forth between 10 applications 25 times a day. This change of context costs us strength. This also shows that more than 27% of the 13,000 knowledge workers surveyed find it exhausting to switch between applications and that numerous actions and messages are lost. The reasons are, on the one hand, the effort involved in changing tools and, on the other hand, the high number of electronic messages.

It is also noticeable that it can be deduced that employees move from application to application more often
switch, also have more problems with effectively prioritizing their work. According to the study, the more tools – the less efficiency.

So multitasking has become part of everyday life. This is already clear from the small example that 80% of knowledge workers ALWAYS keep an eye on the inbox (mails). This means that hardly any task is actually done without a sideline. My experience shows: since COVID.19, the quality of the work has suffered above all – spelling errors and minor careless mistakes are now part of everyday life. Even I am writing this blog article on the side with a view to my emails.

Reading tip: Roundtable digital workplace

Burnout risks are increased

The third important point I would like to address is burnout. You know it: constantly switching between applications, information and zoom meetings is very exhausting. So we have to take better care of ourselves – especially in times of lockdown we don’t have the right balance. The long-term effects of lockdown will still hit our minds a bit. Companies need to understand, combat and eliminate the causes of burnout.

According to the study, almost two thirds of the knowledge workers surveyed doubt their own job performance. This is called that Impostor Syndrome . Reasons are certainly the uncertainty whether you are doing enough or whether everything is really right as well as a lack of acceptance criteria and processes. This permanent stress also increase the risk of burnout.

Reading tip: Webcam on or or?

Recommendations for virtual teams

The question now remains – how do I deal with the challenges? What can I do as an employee or as a company? The knowledge workers questioned in the study evaluated measures for this purpose. The most important measures are:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Encourage employees to take time off
  • Clarity about processes and expectations
  • Sensibly reduce the number of meetings
  • Set up doing hours
  • Buy new technology and link it together in a meaningful way

I would now like to share my personal experiences with this. The most important measure is the flexibility of employees. The flexibility of location-independent work in particular helps ensure that efficiency is higher in the home office. For a third of those surveyed, this type of work is absolutely important and they believe that it increases the quality of life massively.

Furthermore, according to the study, employees could save 6 hours and 5 minutes per person every week (that is 290 hours per year) through improved processes. For this purpose, meetings could be saved and time-outs could reasonably be observed. This goes hand in hand with the creation of clarity about processes and the clarity: when do we hold a meeting and when not.

In addition, 70% of the knowledge workers surveyed see a lot of room for improvement in the efficient setting and use of technologies. It is still too cumbersome for the test persons to click through tools. It is still seen as a burden rather than an aid.

In summary, I can say: It is important to take time out and not constantly look at the PC or move around with a headset. For example, walk through the apartment. It is also important to reduce meetings sensibly and to block doing hours in the calendar. Here you switch off all tools for 1 hour and work concentrated on tasks.

Reading tip: Virtual meeting software

Conclusion

We are all affected by the lockdown and our work is changing massively. New challenges follow, which we must be aware of. These are information overload, context changes and an increased risk of burnout.

If we are aware of these risks, we can master the challenges through measures such as doing hours, clear processes, sensible software tools and, above all, their constructive use.

Reading tip: Zoom fatigue?

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Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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