American Association for Physician Leadership

Problem Solving

Hybrid Work Has Changed Meetings Forever

Mike Tolliver | Jonathan Sass

July 1, 2024


An analysis of 40 million virtual meetings from 11 organizations suggests that some habits, like using virtual meeting options even when in the office, are sticking. Further, data shows that meeting participation and camera usage correlates with retention. The authors recommend several ways for organizations to manage this new reality to better meetings, including identifying key meeting leaders and empowering them and using data to provide visibility into your organizational culture while also respecting privacy concerns.

Knowledge workers attend an astounding number of meetings, many of which aren’t a good use of their time. According to recent research from Microsoft, inefficient meetings are the number one barrier to productivity, with 68% of employees saying they don’t have enough uninterrupted focus time during the workday. Further, research shows that up to one-third of meetings are likely unnecessary. This issue negatively impacts productivity and engagement, with a cost estimate in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

While meeting inefficiency was certainly an issue before the pandemic, it should be no surprise that the sudden switch to virtual collaboration exacerbated the problem. However, that switch had a beneficial side effect: virtual meetings produce data. At today’s scale, that data holds meaningful insights — touching on productivity, engagement, and even retention — and can be applied in a variety of beneficial ways. For organizations looking to improve their meeting culture, collaboration data is a valuable but largely untapped resource.

At Vyopta — a monitoring and analytics platform for enterprise collaboration — we work directly with companies to help them realize value from their meeting data. Additionally, using a large dataset, we routinely analyze global collaboration metrics to establish benchmarks and identify significant trends. This article will cover key insights from a recent analysis and offer examples of how organizations have used data to improve their meetings.

What Meetings Look Like Today

For this analysis, we evaluated more than 40 million meetings from 11 organizations, spanning more than 450,000 unique employees (anonymized for privacy). For comparison purposes, we collected data in two six-week snapshots from Q1 2022 and Q1 2023, each allowing for sufficient time after the sample to measure retention. The data was gleaned from remote or hybrid meetings facilitated by online platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Zoom. Fully in-person meetings were not considered. For brevity, we’ll refer to these remote/hybrid meetings simply as “meetings.”

Meetings, of course, come in all shapes and sizes with different purposes and behavioral expectations. For instance, the intent of a large quarterly business review differs substantially from a five-person daily standup, and the data shows clear differences in participant behavior and engagement. For such reasons, we grouped meetings into three categories:

  • 1:1 — Meetings with exactly two participants

  • Small Group — 3–15 participants

  • Large Group — 16+ participants

On average, each meeting produces close to 400 data points which can effectively quantify many aspects of organizational collaboration, including an accurate measure of time spent, meeting hygiene issues (late starts, running over scheduled time), modality (audio-only, video enabled, reviewing content), and much more.

For this effort, we analyzed the data from the snapshot periods looking for significant patterns, shifts, and correlations. While it should be noted that this data is novel (pre-pandemic, 77.6% of meetings were entirely face-to-face) and that we are still in the early stages of understanding its practical applications, we were able to identify some key takeaways, particularly around small group meetings.

Returning to the office did not reduce virtual meetings.

Many of the organizations in this analysis implemented substantial return to office policies over the past two to three years. We anticipated a drop in virtual meeting volume, but that wasn’t the case. In 2021, employees attended an average of 8.3 meetings per week, which jumped to 10.32 in 2022. 2023 saw a slight reduction to 10.1, mostly driven by fewer 1:1s (the easiest to replace when fully in-person).

This number staying high represents an important shift in employee preference. By default, most meeting invites include a virtual link and participants will often choose to join via video even when others are in the same office. Some also prefer virtual meetings because they allow for recording, transcription, and AI note summaries that aren’t available otherwise. Other factors are at play as well, but the takeaway is that in-person collaborative behaviors are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic norms.

“No-participation rates” in small group meetings are increasing.

In addition to meeting volume, collaboration data can measure how frequently the features of virtual meeting platforms are utilized, such as attendees enabling their cameras, microphones, and recording capabilities. Among these features, it can measure how many participants stayed muted for the entirety of a meeting, which we refer to as the “no-participation rate.” This behavior can be desirable for large meetings to reduce interruptions and background noise, but for small groups, it’s often an indication of a meeting that could have been an email.

In 2023, this rate was 7.2% for small group meetings, up from 4.8% in 2022. It should be noted that these numbers are likely underestimates, as they require the participant to never go off mute for the entire meeting (if someone briefly says “hi” at the beginning but then goes on mute for the remainder, that would not be captured).


This metric also offers a unique method for quantifying the time-cost of meeting inefficiency, and its rise further supports the notion that the cost of unnecessary meetings is increasing. Assuming an average employee compensation of $50/hour, and an average employee count of approximately 40,000, in 2022 the cost of no-participation meeting attendance was $10.2 million per organization. In 2023, that number rose to $19.1 million.

Participants are enabling their cameras less often.

During most meetings, participants can choose whether to enable their camera to appear on video. Doing so is commonly encouraged, as it can increase the quality of communication and is often preferred by management. At the same time, frequent use of front-facing cameras is also tied to increased fatigue and other negative outcomes. From 2022 to 2023, camera enablement rates fell slightly for each meeting type. In a similar analysis from 2022 (with certain takeaways published here), we saw slight increases in this rate over a three-year period. While the reduction of a couple percentage points isn’t dramatic, it does represent the first downward trend we’ve seen for this metric.

Camera use, no-participation rates, and retention.

Both camera enablement and no-participation rates show strong correlations with retention. Employees who would leave their organization within one year of the sample period (attrition group) enabled their cameras in 18.4% of small group meetings, compared to 32.5% for those who stayed (retention group).


Similarly, the attrition group showed considerably higher rates of no-participation in small group meetings (9.6%) compared with the retention group (7.1%).


It’s important to note that these relationships don’t imply causality, and we would advise against drawing conclusions at an individual level (e.g., “Sam rarely turns his camera on, he might quit”). But at sufficient scale, the correlations are too strong to ignore.

While the data doesn’t explain why these relationships exist, recent research on meeting modality and employee engagement may shed some light. According to one study, highly engaged employees reported less fatigue from virtual meetings than those who were disengaged. If the fatigue and negative effects of enabling one’s camera are disproportionately higher for disengaged employees, and disengaged employees are at a higher flight risk, it could explain the behavior differences between the two groups.

With this in mind, some organizations are exploring the value of monitoring high-level trends in camera enablement as a potential proxy for general employee engagement. Some are even correlating the metrics with internal data from pulse surveys for further validation. While more research is needed, this approach has the potential of providing a leading indicator for larger issues that may need attention.

Using This Data to Improve Meetings

In addition to our analysis, we are also directly engaged with a small group of companies to define and implement practical applications for this data. After several rounds of conversations with organizational leaders who’ve reviewed the insights from their company’s collaboration data, as well as the benchmarks and broader trends mentioned above, we’ve compiled some key takeaways you might consider applying at your own organization.

Treat meeting culture as an important part of company culture.

This is especially critical for hybrid and remote teams where a significant portion of interaction is via an online meeting platform. As with company culture, define the meeting culture you want — determine best practices and define roles and responsibilities. This can also include expectations on when not to meet, such as scheduled focus hours and meeting-free days.

Identify the people who can make a difference and support them.

Running effective meetings is a skill, and like any skill, it can be cultivated and strengthened. Fortunately, to make positive changes you don’t have to boil the ocean. From our analysis, 54% of all meetings are hosted by just 10% of employees. These “power users” have an outsized influence on meeting culture, setting the tone for the majority of meetings within the company. Once you’ve defined best practices and areas for improvement, targeted training for this group can allow benefits to propagate across the board.

Leverage data to validate and iterate.

Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, leverage collaboration data to monitor progress and iterate as necessary. For instance, if a specific department has a particularly high no-participation rate, you could monitor how that number changes as you roll out trainings within the department. McKinsey published a case study of how Netflix implemented similar steps with the goal of improving meeting efficiency. They reduced the number of meetings by a whopping 65% with over 85% of employees favoring the approach.

Respect privacy concerns

When discussing collaboration data with organizations, concerns around privacy are often raised, and rightfully so. You don’t want employees to be concerned that their boss is monitoring whether they enabled their camera in each meeting. Such a perception could increase anxiety and diminish psychological safety, which is critical for team performance. It’s worth repeating that the steps outlined here don’t indicate tracking or targeting employees at an individual level, but using anonymized data to identify actionable trends. When done correctly, the results are equally popular among upper management (gains in efficiency and productivity) as well as the employee base (fewer pointless meetings), as evidenced by the Netflix example.

Provide executive visibility.

Policy decisions, including those around meeting culture, are often driven at the executive level. For example, one Fortune 500 company we work with had a stated goal of reducing the time spent in meetings by 25%, which came directly from their CEO.

We’ve found that providing executive visibility to key markers of internal collaboration has many benefits. Foremost, as companies still struggle to find the right hybrid work strategies (only 15% of managers are very comfortable leading hybrid teams), leveraging data from the hybrid collaboration patterns of your workforce will facilitate more informed decision making.

Fortunately, most organizations already have capable business intelligence (BI) infrastructure to monitor company health and performance. We strongly recommend integrating collaboration data as an additional component to your BI suite and choosing a set of KPIs to include in executive dashboards. These can include the metrics mentioned above, but there are several others of value across the leadership spectrum. For instance, aggregate reporting on manager 1:1s can be used to ensure employees are receiving sufficient time with their bosses across the company. Once the data is available, there are similar applications oriented toward efficiency, engagement, and employee experience.

Organizations that have implemented these types of policies have seen measurable success. One company we worked with created a set of meeting culture policies for their hybrid workforce. Their intention was to ensure that each meeting had purpose and necessity — if the purpose was simply to convey information, it could potentially be replaced with an asynchronous method. They also wanted to empower their employees: If they know a certain meeting is not a good use of their time, it’s OK to decline the invite. If they’re not needed for the rest of the agenda, it’s fine to drop early. The organization trained frequent hosts to set the tone and convey this information at the top of meetings and encouraged the hosts to be more thoughtful about the purpose of each meeting.

After initiating the program, the data showed clear improvements. Meetings got smaller (from an average of 6.7 participants to 6.3), shorter by several minutes, and camera enablement rates increased by over two percent. The result was higher quality collaboration, and the efficiency gains saved employees an average of 21 minutes each week.

A theme we frequently heard from organizational leaders was that without intentional effort, meeting culture will gravitate toward inefficiency. For those willing to invest that effort, a data-driven approach is critical for success.

Copyright 2024 Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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Mike Tolliver

Mike Tolliver is the Director of Product Management at Vyopta.

Jonathan Sass
Jonathan Sass

Jonathan Sass, Vice President of Product and Marketing at Vyopta, focuses on creating solutions to help organizations deliver best-in-class collaboration and communication experiences for their employees and customers while optimizing their technology and real estate investments. He has a BS in Applied Physics from Bethel University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

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