Meet Me in Cyberspace: Meetings in the Distributed Work Environment

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Academy of Management Conference, OCIS Division, Honolulu, HI (2005)


Computer-Mediated Communication, Virtuality


Meetings have long been a critical activity in contemporary work life. At least since Mintzberg's classic study of managerial behavior, researchers have documented and practitioners have bemoaned the amount of time spent in meetings. Despite these problems, meetings are becoming even more common in organizations. Teams are now found throughout the organization, from the manufacturing floor to senior management. Organizational work increasingly occurs in teams, with participation in meetings becoming a core work activity. How are these meetings conducted? What are the implications of the increased use of ICT in these meetings? As more and more members of organizational teams are distributed and must make extensive use of ICT in order to work together, these questions become even more important.

Using the device of genre system, an interrelated set of socially constructed communicative actions, we examine meetings from the perspective of employees at a company in the technology industry. We began with the questions: Are meetings in the 21st century different from Mintzberg's conceptualization? If so, how? Drawing on data gathered from interviews that used entries in the employees' electronic calendar system, we found that employees are attending a large number of meetings (20% reported more than 25 meetings in a week) and spending significant time in meetings (27% reported more than 30 hours in a week in meetings). The majority of meetings included non-collocated participants and extensive use of ICT. We explore the implications of these and other findings for collaboration and ICT support.


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