40 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – JUNE 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM THE BACK PAGE COLLABORATION INTELLIGENCE: WHAT ONLINE MEETINGS CAN TELL US By now, we all have our own feelings about online or virtual meetings — we may love, hate or merely tolerate them, but what’s not in question is that they have dramatically changed how we work. Before the pandemic, 79 percent of meetings within a business were inperson, a percentage that was largely reversed in the seeming blink of an eye. Despite the many perceived benefits of in-person meetings, they rarely provide any data on the dynamics of the meetings, such as attendees, meeting length, level of engagement or other factors that can provide meaningful insights. The emerging field of collaboration intelligence is now tapping into the flood of data from online meetings to understand better how employees have adapted and how online meetings have changed how people collaborate, and where collaboration through remote meetings is now trending. Collaboration intelligence can be an important new business intelligence tool to help organizations improve efficiency and employee retention. Some unexpected findings were discovered in an analysis of 48 million online meetings held over the last three years involving more than half a million employees. Not surprisingly, for example, when the pandemic struck and offices emptied, remote meetings skyrocketed. Workdays became longer by an average of 48 minutes as people adjusted not only to remote meetings, but also to working from home and the always-on mentality that often took hold as a result. As the pandemic wore on throughout 2021 and into 2022, we expected to see the number of online meetings begin to tail off. But instead, they increased. However, the dynamics of the meetings noticeably changed: There were more meetings, of course, but they were shorter on average and held with fewer participants. And there also were more ad hoc or unscheduled meetings. Employees seem to figure out what works for them in terms of how they prefer to conduct remote meetings. We can’t say for certain, but employees may increasingly be using ad hoc and oneon-one remote meetings to recreate the informal meetings by the water cooler that used to take place in the office regularly. Remote meetings & engagement Collaboration intelligence tools provide tremendous opportunities for organisations to learn how people are interacting — at the employee, team and organisational levels. Despite concerns about productivity and engagement in remote and hybrid work environments, our data indicate that remote workers have become increasingly engaged over the last two years. The increase in remote meetings in 2021 and 2022, even as some workers returned to the office or moved to more hybrid schedules with some in-office days, may support the notion that as people became more comfortable with remote meetings, they made increased use of them to interact with colleagues. Collaboration intelligence allows organisations to gain deeper understanding of how employees interact. For law firms, this could produce insights into how interactions take place within and across matter teams and practice groups, as well as among other groups such as mentors, affinity groups and other diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Best practices Regardless of the state of remote engagement, there are several steps law firms, and other organisations can take to encourage greater engagement. Encourage synchronous work schedules for remote workers: Having work schedules with time blocks where employees can meet remotely during their workday regardless of location, can help facilitate collaborative meetings. Be intentional about meeting culture: When participants enable their cameras, for example, it tends to result in higher quality meetings but can also increase fatigue. Be mindful of the trade-offs and empower team members to make the most effective choices for themselves and the situation. There are scenarios where audio-only communication can increase perceptions of authenticity and build stronger bonds. Re-engage employees who are disengaging: While collaboration intelligence can identify employees who are less engaged than others, the remedy is not necessarily simply forcing them to attend more meetings. Private but open conversations can determine the main reasons the employee may be disengaged, such as their feeling underpaid or that their work is not challenging enough. At the same time, if an employee’s meeting or engagement patterns shift, it could be due to factors such as a new role that does not require as much collaboration. Mike Tolliver is product management director at Vyopta with a focus on analytics platforms for organizational collaboration.. A version of this article was published earlier by the Thomson Reuters Institute, and has been reprinted with permission. Asian Legal Business is seeking thought-provoking opinion pieces from readers on subjects ranging from Asia’s legal industry to law firm management, technology and others. Email for submission guidelines. BY MIKE TOLLIVER