Seattle — As the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of employees to work remotely, many meetings and collaborations now occur via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other video-conferencing platforms—but discussing the quarterly numbers and reminding everyone to turn in their timecard in on time isn’t all that’s happening during those calls.
A recent Digital.com survey of 1,250 Americans who primarily work from home (WFH) found sixty-two percent shop online during virtual work meetings.
As many companies debate whether they will continue allowing employees to work from home full- or part-time once pandemic-related restrictions are fully lifted, we take a closer look at which groups of workers are most likely to shop during virtual meetings and what employers can do to keep their employees engaged.
7 in 10 Gen Zers are shopping online during work calls
According to our survey, when it comes to making purchases during virtual meetings, the worst offenders are the digital natives—Gen Z. Seventy-one percent of 18-24 year-olds admit to shopping online during virtual meetings.
This habit is prevalent among this generation because technology has been integrated into their lives since birth, says Digital.com Digital Marketing Executive Huy Nguyen.
“Gen Zers are naturally more digital-savvy and proficient at multitasking, as they grew up with technology in-hand,” Nguyen says. “These habits are further enabled in a virtual work environment.”
Millennials and Gen Xers are slightly less likely to shop online during virtual meetings. Sixty-five percent of respondents between the ages of 25-54 admit to doing so. By comparison, only 37% of people 54 and older use work calls to get their online shopping done.
22% of remote workers shop online during virtual meetings ‘all the time’
When asked about the frequency of their online shopping, 22% of respondents are guilty of shopping during virtual meetings “all the time.” The plurality of respondents, 43%, cop to filling carts “sometimes.”
Among Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X, the frequency of shopping online during work meetings is similar. Twenty-three percent of people under 54 shop during virtual meetings “all the time,” while 44% do it “sometimes.”
By comparison, only 7% of people over 54 are always shopping during online meetings, while 38% say they do so sometimes.
Parents more likely to shop online during virtual meetings
Having children also appears to impact how employees are spending their time during virtual meetings. Thirty percent of people who are married with children “always” shop online during virtual meetings, compared to 11% of childless married individuals.
Among single individuals, there is less difference; 20% of single parents always shop online during virtual meetings, while 14% of single people without children shop online with the same frequency.
The changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic may have contributed to parents using their virtual meeting time to take care of other responsibilities, says Nguyen.
“With many parents and children working and studying virtually in the same home during the pandemic, it can be more difficult to dedicate time to shop for everyday essentials,” he says. “The convenience of shopping online paired with the perception of not being monitored makes for an easy environment for parents to shop online while on Zoom calls.”
Clothing and shoes top list of items people are purchasing
And what exactly are people shopping for when they’re on the clock? According to our survey, clothing and shoes are the most popular items at 64%.
Electronics came in second, with 51% of people selecting this response, and food came in third, with a 48% share of responses.
Do these 7 things to keep employees engaged during virtual meetings
Even when the majority of employees were working on-site, taking care of personal business like online shopping during work hours was common. Meanwhile, the challenges presented by COVID-19—offices shifting to remote work, employees juggling professional and personal responsibilities in a brand-new context, the collective sense of anxiety and fear caused by the pandemic—added a whole new layer of complexity to employee engagement.
But with many companies shifting to a fully remote or hybrid work model, it’s up to employers and leadership teams to figure out how to make virtual meetings engaging and productive long-term.
“As remote work environments become more normal, employers and their managers need to create a thoughtful strategy to have efficient meetings and ensure participants are engaged,” Nguyen says. “Setting expectations and having only the right people attend meetings is essential for better outcomes.”
Here are tips for keeping employees focused, engaged, and off Amazon during virtual meetings:
- Prepare an agenda in advance, and share it with meeting participants
- Keep meetings small, and only include essential personnel (experts recommend 3-5 people)
- Create communication guidelines to help control meetings and prevent people from talking over each other
- Establish meeting goals and have a facilitator who will keep people on task and on topic
- Give people tasks to help them stay engaged, such as note-taker, timekeeper, facilitator, etc.
- Ask participants directly for feedback
- Allow people to leave if they are no longer needed and schedule breaks for meetings that last longer than 1 hour
All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by Digital.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 adult Americans were surveyed. To qualify for the survey, each respondent had to work primarily from home. Appropriate respondents were found via a screening question. This survey was conducted over a two-day span, starting on May 15, 2021, and ending May 16, 2021. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities.