"This meeting could have been an email:" People sound off on video calls

Overall 32% of respondents said they find themselves thinking "this meeting could have been an email" most or all of the time, according to a new survey. How can execs improve video calls?

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Image: GettyImages/Westend61

In the age of remote work, telecommuters are juggling a vast suite of collaboration tools during the virtual workday. For many professionals, around-the-clock video calls have replaced traditional meetings, leading to all new lexicon offerings a la Zoom fatigue and booming Zoom towns as nomadic workers hit the open road. A new SurveyMonkey poll highlights employee sentiments about video calls, technical challenges, approaches to enhance meeting experiences and more.

"From complaints about time wasted to issues with technology, virtual meetings have room to improve," said Erin Pinkus, a senior research scientist at SurveyMonkey.

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"This meeting could have been an email"

The survey ran from April 26 through May 4 and included responses from 8,485 U.S. adults. 

Overall, only 6% of respondents said they never find themselves thinking that the meeting could have been an email, and 42% felt this way "some of the time." About one in three respondents (32%) said they find themselves thinking "this meeting could have been an email" most or all of the time.

"On the bright side though, Americans cite some simple fixes that can be implemented right away to improve meetings, including having an agenda (54%) and keeping them short (53%)," Pinkus said.

About one-third of respondents said "making the experience more interactive" would make work meetings better, and one-quarter of respondents felt that "collecting real-time feedback to adapt the meeting as needed" could enhance the experience.

"Many (70%) believe gathering input prior to holding meetings would make the experience better, and yet just over half have ever been asked to give their input on meetings they regularly attend," Pinkus said.

Virtual meetings and technical snafus

A portion of the survey asked respondents to make note of the problems they encounter in "virtual meetings compared to in-person meetings." The top reported challenges include technical problems (41%) followed by "attendees struggling to get the technology right" (31%) with examples including the mute features and "using the camera."

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More than one-quarter of respondents (27%) listed both attendees who are multi-tasking and not focusing and a lack of attendee engagement. Compared to traditional face-to-face meetings, 20% of respondents said virtual meetings make it "harder to speak up" and 19% selected "too much screen time."

Clear action items and meeting "dread"

On average, 58% of respondents said they have "hardly any time each day" in meetings, and about one-quarter (23%) said they spend less than 60 minutes of their days in meetings. About half of the respondents (44%) said they leave meetings with "clear action items" most of the time and one-third (33%) exit meetings with these actionable items sometimes. A similar number of employees reported leaving meetings with these items all of the time (12%) or rarely (8%).

When people were asked about their feelings when anticipating most of their daily meetings, 17% of respondents said they "mostly dread work meetings" although the majority of respondents (55%) said they mostly feel neutral about them. About one-quarter of respondents said they "mostly look forward to work meetings."

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