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It's True. Everyone IS Multitasking on Their Video Calls


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woman at laptop with seven arms performing multiple tasks, illustration

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If you tend to multitask in video meetings, you're not alone. A new study of Microsoft employees finds that people multitask more frequently in larger and longer meetings. Multitasking takes place six times as often in video meetings lasting more than 80 minutes compared with meetings that take 20 minutes or less.

Microsoft shares details of the study of multitasking and remote teams in "Large Scale Analysis of Multitasking Behavior During Remote Meetings," published in the proceedings of ACM's 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Researchers from Amazon, Microsoft, and University College London examined cloud file activity for U.S. Microsoft employees to get a sense of how often people multitask in video meetings and why.

The study shows that multitasking during virtual meetings is a coping mechanism to protect people's mental well-being from . . . too many virtual meetings. Lead author and Microsoft Research intern Hancheng Cao said the results illuminate the need for employers to have more flexible attitudes about multitasking for remote teams.

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