Meetings in times of social distancing: any empirical studies?

A lot could be said about our favourite research topic in these peculiar times, but right now I shall limit myself to a simple question: are you aware of any empirical studies about meetings during the Covid-19 crisis? If so, please reply with a quick note which could include any of the following:

  • Who conducted (or plans to conduct) the study?
  • What kind of data?
  • Main variables/ areas of interest/ research questions?
  • Main findings?
  • Results published? (or otherwise available?)

Please feel free to share even links to media articles that report relevant findings without specifying their source. It will be interesting to see what is going on in terms of research and perhaps identify potential for collaboration and comparison.

How the Covid-19 Pandemic changes the dynamics of meetings and organizations?
What do we think of virtual meetings? How do they change our organizations?

Insights based on research with more than 800 employees across 5 Belgian universities.

Sophie Thunus, Willem Standaerts, Frédéric Schoenaers, and Céline Mahieu

The containment measures deployed following the Covid-19 pandemic produced a partial, if not complete, shift to telework. In many sectors, virtual meetings are now at the heart of work organization and coordination. More than a month since the start of the confinement, how do people feel about their virtual meetings? And what do virtual meetings say about our organizations?

To find an answer to these questions, we have distributed a survey within five Belgian universities, University Ghent, University Hasselt, UCLouvain, ULiège and ULB.

Intermediate results are available here:

Based on this study, Willem Standaert and Sophie Thunus submitted a research proposal to the F.R.S-FNRS, Exceptional Research Project, Call 2020.

Below is the proposal’s abstract:

The lockdown measures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic induced a massive and rapid shift to virtual meetings across sectors and organisations. Virtual meetings are distributed technology-mediated gatherings between two or more people for a purpose explicitly related to the functioning of a project or an organisation. As the lockdown measures are eased, hybrid meetings are expected to become prevalent, mixing face-to-face and virtual meeting modes either sequentially or in parallel. This project aims to understand how people meet virtually in an effective way and to provide scientifically grounded recommendations for using different meeting modes (face-to-face, virtual, hybrid) appropriately, in order to improve the resilience of public sector organisations. The project focuses on the Health and (higher) Education sectors, which handle highly valued social functions that have to be fulfilled even in times of crises. Based on insights from a preliminary study that we conducted during the lockdown, this proposal focuses on the functions of virtual and hybrid meetings; on the relationships between the participants; and on meeting practices such as agenda-setting and facilitation. In addition, it will measure the impact of different meetings modes on employees’ wellbeing and organisational commitment. By relying on mixed methods (web-based survey, observations, and interviews), this project intends to unravel what effective virtual meetings practices are and for which types of functions virtual and hybrid meetings are effective (relative to face-to-face meetings), but it also aims to understand how meeting practices and relationships change in a virtual and hybrid context. The targeted final outcomes consist of five scientific articles addressing epistemological and practice-oriented questions about face-to-face, virtual, and hybrid meetings; and a practice contribution consisting of specific recommendations intended to meeting organizers and participants.

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