Rodrigo Capuruço, CEO in Brazil and Latin America at Volkswagen Financial Services, the German automaker’s financial arm, often jokes with his secretary: “What time do I start working? You organize my schedule with meeting after meeting…”.
With about 70% of the team working from home, the executive’s meetings are usually online, lasting from half an hour to two hours each. There are five meetings a day. Rodrigo also receives around 100 emails daily, 40% of which demand a response from him. On WhatsApp, there are approximately 50 work messages daily. But messages also arrive through Microsoft Teams, used to hold meetings, and through Skype.
“If there’s one thing I lost control of during the pandemic, it was my schedule,” says the 44-year-old accountant. “I created this obligation to always be connected and that the response needs to be in real time. Instinctively, I end up demanding that from the team and I have this expectation in relation to other people. A response that happens at the same time or on the same day. technology paradox: you have more tools to connect to, but at the same time you get stuck on them, and stop doing things that really matter.”
Rodrigo is not alone in this online angst. A survey by the management and executive education consultancy BTA Associados, on changes and challenges in the post-pandemic professional routine, pointed out that 66% of bosses consider the excessive use of technology as the biggest time thief: emails, applications such as WhatsApp, Slack, Telegram, video platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet, in addition to social networks, hinder productivity too much.
The survey was carried out between the end of May and the beginning of June with around 200 executives in positions of directors, presidents, vice presidents, directors and managers of companies. For them, 61% of individual time is spent on activities that do not add value to the business – and technology is the biggest culprit. Before the pandemic, in 2019, this percentage of “wasting time” was 38%.
For psychologist Betania Tanure de Barros, a partner at BTA and specialist in organizational behavior, the corporate world has not yet learned to manage at a distance. The result is that time management has become the number 1 challenge for executives – while business management is in 4th place, according to the survey.
“Online bureaucracy is stealing executives’ time and health and in a way this spills over into teams, because it creates a modus operandi in the organization”, says Betania. “You work 12 hours or more a day and also on weekends, often because communication is not objective.”
Respondents complain, for example, of excessive messages that only aim to make them aware of what is happening. For many, those who give science only do so in order not to assume responsibility.
In the opinion of Vânia Café, a partner at BTA, online demand has increased in recent months. “Companies were coming out of a troubled period, which was the most acute phase of the pandemic, and then they are caught with other urgent demands, such as the reflection of Russia’s war in Ukraine and accelerated inflation”, she says. “Everything requires decisions too quickly.”
What you see are executives “sinking” amid the demands that real-time communication brings, says Betania. According to her, the issue is not just about delegating tasks. “The company depends on the decisions of top executives. They need to have time to receive information, process it, reorganize it within the company’s strategy and give direction to the organization”, says the expert.
“People started to have less filter and forward anything”
Rodrigo Capuruço is feeling the drama. “I see everyone having difficulty processing the volume of information received and generating knowledge, which is what matters, separating what is important from what does not have much meaning”, says he, who in recent days has tried to resume the pace of work, while still recovering from Covid-19.
“But with technology, people have much less filtering and send anything. Reporting, reports, market data”, says he, who feels frustrated for not having time, for example, to be in the field visiting clients, a assertive way to outline new strategies and think about the future of the business.
In the opinion of Tatiana Iwai, behavior and leadership professor at Insper, post-pandemic life has brought a barrage of online orders. “We are interrupted all the time,” she says. “This leads to productivity issues, job dissatisfaction, stress and feelings of exhaustion.”
There are many demands competing for attention, since remote work has left the company horizontal: everyone has access to everyone. “But that quick question isn’t that harmless, because it doesn’t happen just once,” says Tatiana. “This sequence of interruptions is expensive, cuts the flow of work and until you get your focus back there is a loss of precious time, not to mention the quality of the task, which is also affected.”
A new online etiquette is needed to control excesses
The chat or app call ended up replacing the trip to the office desk. “The difference is that, in person, you would hardly go to someone’s table five times. But today, you easily look for someone online five times a day”, says the Insper professor.
While the entire company became accessible, people often work different hours, recalls Tatiana. “With that, it seems that the workday never ends, there’s always someone online asking you for things,” she says. This type of situation makes it necessary to create new rules of etiquette in the world of hybrid and remote work.
Rodrigo, for example, set some limits to control anxiety for immediate responses. “I used to send emails on Sundays, to prepare my week. I stopped doing that last year. It was generating unnecessary stress in the people who worked with me, including myself”, says the executive, who has also been careful not to send any work messages after 9pm and before 7am.
Last Thursday night (23), when she spoke to the report, business administrator Cintia Camargo, 48, was trying to get rid of the last pending work to take a vacation with her family. “It’s not a month, it’s just a week, but it seems that people think you’re not coming back”, jokes the executive, director of credit for small businesses at Itaú Unibanco.
Cintia created some rules during the pandemic to not go crazy with online demands. “I do not accept being copied in emails with a reply and rejoinder”, she says. “If in an answer the issue is not resolved, the person should pick up the phone and call. It’s amazing how much easier things can be resolved that way.”
In emails, the main information should be at the top of the message, never at the end, to save time. She also learned to delegate more roles. “I suffered a lot trying to solve everything myself, but there are about 300 people on my team in need of guidance. It’s not possible to embrace everything.”
She doesn’t send emails outside of office hours, so as not to add to the team’s anxiety. “I leave everything ready, but I don’t send it,” she says. “I don’t schedule a lunchtime meeting either,” she says. “We need to set rules, otherwise that madness of working 12, 14 hours as it was at the beginning of the pandemic, ends up becoming the new normal”, says Cintia, guaranteeing that she will not take her notebook and cell phone from work to the beach for the week with the daughter and husband.
If for Cíntia and Rodrigo remote work has required paradigm shifts, for Sandra Alves, 47, internal audit manager at Banco ABC Brasil, the new reality has made their daily lives better.
“I used to have to wait a week on an executive’s schedule to talk to him about simple, quick questions that required little response time”, says the executive. “Now I can easily access it from Teams,” she says. “I always ask permission, so that he can answer me at the most convenient time, of course.”
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