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Survey: Rituals of the modern workplace are highly personal

Do you how your employees and colleagues prefer to work? And do your team’s rituals take those preferences into account?
The modern workplace has fundamentally changed. It’s not just a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; employees are approaching work differently, interacting with one another differently, and viewing work-life balance in new ways.
Since Coda was founded, we’ve thought deeply about how work gets done, as well as how we can make work feel less like work. With the goal of gleaning insights into how people work together and how individuals complete their best work in 2022, we surveyed 1,000 full-time employees. Taking into consideration age, gender, and geographic location within the US, we asked a variety of questions centered on workplace proficiency and proclivity.
We found that work is personal. People prefer flexibility when it comes to when, where, and how work gets done. And employee satisfaction is correlated to how processes are adapted to preferences. Here are the details.
Meetings are the best way to brainstorm, but there’s still room for improvement.
Even if you’re anti-meeting, you have to consider the benefits of brainstorming face-to-face (or even screen-to-screen). Survey results showed that live forms of communication remain the most favored way to brainstorm. When asked how they prefer to brainstorm with coworkers, every responding age group reported in-person meetings as their first choice, followed by virtual meetings. Messaging platforms came third, and document collaboration was least preferred as a primary way to brainstorm. The overall takeaway is that the overwhelming majority (80%) prefer to brainstorm in some sort of meeting, whether that’s in person or virtual.
However, once you’re in the meeting, consider ways to level the playing field so that all attendees have an opportunity to meaningfully contribute. In our survey, women were 15% more likely than men to say that their input was not considered in meetings. To combat this, one of our favorite rituals at Coda is called a
, which is a voting table used to determine which ideas to discuss first. Instead of relying on round-robin conversation or defaulting to the loudest voice in the room, this helps ensure every person’s input is heard.
While not every meeting is created equal (there will always be those that could have been an email), it’s important for managers and team leads to source information like this to find out how their employees best collaborate in order to get the best brainstorm results. Whether your team is varied in age or concentrated in one generation, you may find that their preferences are different than you’d assume. This chart shows a strong preference for in-person brainstorms across all age groups, followed by virtual brainstorm meetings:
Total respondents: 1,002
Kill your morning check-ins.
Across the workforce, many teams have implemented the “morning standup” ritual — scheduling a recurring check-in for 15-30 minutes every day to align on priorities and pressing deliverables. However, more than two-thirds of survey respondents (69%) are “morning people” when it comes to productivity, claiming they do their best focused work during this time.
If this many of your employees are their most productive selves in the morning, it’s less efficient to schedule a recurring status update meeting during a time that disrupts the flow of their critical thinking. Instead, consider a few alternatives — maybe it’s a daily survey where they report on tasks virtually, or an afternoon standup to plan for the next day.
If you choose the afternoon standup, try to avoid scheduling it back-to-back with another meeting — more than half of survey respondents (54%) prefer whitespace between meetings in their calendar. Whatever you choose, make sure that you’re sourcing employee feedback so not as to interrupt their deep focus and to maximize time spent together. The preference is clear in this chart, which shows that most respondents prefer the mornings for focused work:
Total respondents: 1,002
Email and to-do list management is highly personal—and that’s a good thing.
For years, it seems like tech companies have aimed to replace the idea of the email inbox: cut down the amount of emails you receive daily, create a better way to organize or send emails, create a communication tool that replaces email entirely. Try as they might, everyone still gets too many emails. 84% of respondents said they have many emails in their inboxes on a regular basis. This was most prevalent for those over the age of 35, who typically began their professional careers before the introduction of tools like Skype, Slack, and Google Drive. However, three quarters of Gen Z employees also report having many emails on a daily basis. The chart below shows that only 13% of respondents have very few emails in their inbox, and just 3% of respondents are able to skip using email entirely:
Total respondents: 1,002

Given that context-switching from email to other apps costs time and focus, consider using quick communication tools for everyday tasks, asks, and updates. Save email for big-picture items, external communication, and longer-term outlines that may otherwise get lost in the high volume of instant messages. Alternatively, aim to conduct work outside of standard email, and take advantage of the customizable features of tools like Coda, where you can collaborate in a way that’s most convenient for you. For example, using suggest changes or creating a personal view of your task list will save at least a few email back-and-forths.
Shishir Mehrotra, our cofounder and CEO, believes that to-do list makers fall in one of two camps: they are “etch-a-sketchers” and start a fresh to-do list each day, or they are “pilers” and continually add to an existing to-do list. Our survey found that more than half of respondents (56%) edit an existing to-do list each day. Only 22% of respondents start a new list each day, and just as many respondents say they do not keep a to-do list at all. Regardless of your to-do list preference, it’s important to choose a to-do list system that is personalized to your preferred way of working.
More productive people: they’re just like us!
When survey respondents compared their productivity to their coworkers, 41% of respondents believe they are more productive than their counterparts, compared to just 8% of respondents who believe they are less productive than their coworkers. Men are more likely than women to self-identify as more productive (57% of men compared to 43% of women), and Gen Z is less likely than other age groups to report that they are more productive, but that’s where the differences end.
This cohort of “more productive” employees has the same preferences as everyone else when it comes to doing their most productive work during the morning, afternoon, or evening. They are just as likely to forgo a to-do list as those who say they are less productive or as productive as their colleagues. They also have the same meeting scheduling preferences. This tells us that productivity really boils down to personal preferences and when workplaces offer flexibility, employees feel more empowered to do their best work.
Most notably, regardless of working in an in-person, hybrid, or remote location, productivity perception remains nearly the same:
Total respondents: 594. Note that work location is a net new question from the second survey (not asked in the first survey) so response volume is lower.

These similar productivity levels contradict the perception shared by some executives who believe that people should return to the office in order to be more productive. If productivity is indeed the same regardless of work location, organizations should offer workplace flexibility and embrace personal work styles, where possible, in order to increase employee satisfaction.
So where do we go from here?
If employers want to combat quiet quitting, low employee engagement, and burn out, they need to understand their employees’ preferences. To start, take into account the time of day when team members feel they get their best work done, their preferences for scheduling meetings, their preferred way to brainstorm, and the tools needed to support all of the above.
And that’s why Coda is the doc for teams. We’ve built Coda with these basic requirements for productivity — and we believe that tools should flex to the team instead of the other way around. Here are a few ways you can build a more personal workspace for your team in Coda:
To ensure everyone’s voice is heard in the meeting, try a
.
To optimize the time spent brainstorming—even if it’s not in person—try this .
To skip the morning check-in altogether, try this with space for status updates.
To see what makes your team tick, encourage them to fill out this .
To manage your to-do list, whether you pile on or start fresh each day, try out .
To cut down on the volume of emails, try this that automates sharing status updates in Slack.
To stay connected with coworkers even if you all work remotely, check out a few pointers from our .

Methodology
From June 23 - August 28, 2022, we surveyed 1,002 full-time employees in the U.S. who work at a computer and often with a team. We surveyed people ranging in age from 18-64. 49% of respondents were male and 51% of respondents were female. The survey was issued twice, with the second survey identical to the first survey, except for two additional questions: “Which of the following best describes the physical location where you work?” and “What is the biggest problem with meetings you attend, if any?” Because of this, the response volume for these two questions is significantly lower, with 594 responses. For all other questions, survey response count ranges from 997 to 1,002, where survey response count is slightly lower for questions that were asked later in each survey.
Fair Use: Feel free to use this data and research with proper attribution linking to this study.
Media inquiries: For media inquiries, contact Rachel Colson at press@coda.io

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