Digital communication overload in the hybrid workplace. Can it be contained?

Last registered on April 26, 2024


Trial Information

General Information

Digital communication overload in the hybrid workplace. Can it be contained?
Initial registration date
April 18, 2024

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
April 26, 2024, 10:52 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


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Primary Investigator

Université libre de Bruxelles

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Since the pandemic, working a couple of days per week remotely from home has become the norm in many organizations. This transition, while granting newfound flexibility, also presents challenges. Employees may feel compelled to remain constantly connected to the workplace, particularly because digital communication tools enable virtual accessibility from anywhere. Research suggests a correlation between employee well-being and productivity regarding email and meeting practices. In this research, we conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) within a Belgian public administration to assess the impact of nudges (focusses) aimed at alleviating digital communication overload. The study seeks to assess how these nudges affect employee productivity and well-being.

The intervention involves proposing to managers and employees a specific set of “best” organisational practices (nudges) intended to improve operational efficiency. These nudges primarily address the utilization of digital communication tools, such as email, scheduling meetings, and techniques for disengaging from work. The objective is to provide strategies that minimize unnecessary communication and meetings while optimizing the effectiveness of these communication channels. Further details regarding the practical application and execution of the intervention will be elucidated below.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Tojerow, Ilan. 2024. "Digital communication overload in the hybrid workplace. Can it be contained? ." AEA RCT Registry. April 26.
Experimental Details


In this research, we initiate a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in a Belgian public administration to assess the impact of nudges targeting and managing digital communication overload. Specifically, the intervention involves proposing a concrete set of “best” organisational practices to managers and employees, aimed at reducing/managing the volume of emails and meetings, as well as alleviating workplace connectivity pressure. The nudges align closely with the administration’s best practice guide. They focus on the use of (digital) communication tools such as emails, chats, and telephone, as well as the organization of meetings and methods for disconnecting from the workplace.

Between April and June, individuals will receive six brief well-being surveys to gauge general job satisfaction and wellbeing at work. Upon completing a survey, individuals will encounter one of six different nudges. Subsequently, a few days after the short well-being surveys, another email containing a permanent link to the nudges will be sent. Following the intervention, a longer well-being survey will be administered.

The information intervention is randomly assigned to teams of employees at the lowest hierarchical level within the organization, along with a subset of their direct managers. Managers who are simultaneously overseeing such a team and leading direct managers of other teams are excluded from this phase of the experiment to avoid information spillover from their subordinate managers, as some could potentially be assigned to the treatment group. Similarly, managers and teams directly managed by individuals informed about the experiment are also excluded. This leaves us with 216 teams comprising 1,200 employees and a subset of 130 direct managers of the 216 teams included in the experiment.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
We measure the effects on primary outcomes separately for the employees and the managers included in the experiment up to one year after the experiment. We will consider three data sources: a) register data of the employees of the public administration, b) survey data and c) the experimental data (of the information intervention).

A) Register data

Productivity metrics linked to the use of emails and meetings
- Average duration of meetings on MS Teams per week
- Number of meetings per week on MS Teams
- Email volume (sent, received and read) sent on average per day

B) Survey data
- General job satisfaction/well-being
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Duration and frequency of MS Teams meetings, as well as the email volume, are continuously monitored and can be accessed from the registry data. General job satisfaction and well-being will be assessed through a series of six brief surveys distributed to all employees via email throughout the intervention, as outlined in the experimental details above. These surveys will also facilitate the measurement of changes in effects over time. Additionally, a post-intervention evaluation will be conducted as part of the longer well-being survey.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
We evaluate the effects on primary outcomes independently for both the employees and the managers participating in the experiment for up to one year post-experiment. We will utilize three data sources: a) registry data from the public administration employees, b) survey data, and c) the experimental data from of the information intervention.

A) Register data

Absenteeism metric categorized by the following two reasons: 1) sickness and 2) holidays leave
- A binary indicator equal to one if a person was absent for a reason for at least half a day due one of the above reasons within the first six months after the start of the experiment
- The total time a person was absent due to one of the above reasons as a fraction of the contractual working time within the first six months after the start of the experiment

Productivity metrics associated with the utilization of chats
- Number of private chats (on Teams) recorded on average per working week

B) Survey data

In the longer well-being survey which will be administered after the intervention (in connection with an internal survey administered by the public administration) our aim is to evaluate the following constructs:

- Perceptions of changes in the work environment related to emails and meetings
- Dis-connection/detachment from work
- General job satisfaction/ well-being
- Work engagement
- Self-perceived productivity

C) Experimental Data

Indicators of email opening/clicking behaviour (capturing treatment intensity):
- An indicator that reveals whether the employee has responded to one or several of the short well-being survey, thereby indicating their engagement with the nudges
- An indicator that reveals whether the employee has opened one or several emails with permanent links to the nudges
- An indicator that the reveals whether the employee has clicked on one or several of the permanent links to the information within the different nudges

List of moderators:
- Gender 
- The number of children  
- The interaction between the number of children and the gender 
- For employees assigned to the experiment, the treatment status of the direct manager: treated, not treated, or not participating in the experiment. 
- The position in the firm
- The team size
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
This research aims at measuring the collective impact of the intervention on the 1,200 employees and 130 direct managers participating in the experiment. Initially, individuals are stratified into four strata based on the inclusion status of the team manager in the experiment (see the description of the inclusion criteria in the experimental details) and by the gender of this manager. Within these strata, sub-strata have been established based on team size, resulting in 3 sub-strata within the first stratum and 3 within the subsequent ones. Within these sub-strata, individuals are then randomly assigned by team (“cluster”) to either the treatment or control condition.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
The randomization is done by a random number generator on a computer.
Randomization Unit
The randomization is done at the team level.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
216 clusters: one for each team to which the employees belong
Sample size: planned number of observations
130 managers and 1,200 agents (employees): in total 1,330 individuals.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
For the employees: 108 clusters are treated and 108 are not treated. 652 individuals are assigned to the control group and 548 individuals are assigned to the treatment group.

For the managers: 65 in the treated group and 65 in the control group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Soon available

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Ethical Review Committee of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
UG-EB 2024-I