The struggle with implementing the "no-meeting" trend - Deepstash

The struggle with implementing the "no-meeting" trend

  • A common pitfall is that the unproductive Zoom calls are simply pushed to either side of the meeting-free day. Worse, time-stretched managers sometimes ignore company policy: they see a yawning gap in workers’ schedules on a no-meeting day and set up an hour-long call. Employees, meanwhile, presume the meeting must be important and feel obliged to attend.
  • There can be other unintended consequences, too. Meetings can be a surprisingly efficient way of exchanging information. Without alternatives in place, a quick question during a morning catch-up can be replaced by email ping-pong.

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MORE IDEAS FROM Does banning meetings help workers get back their time?

Some companies have banned meetings, either permanently or for specific days each week.

Many tech-related start-ups, which often employ remote workers in different time zones prioritize efficient asynchronous communication rather than live calls.

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Excess meetings

Remote working has only exacerbated the problem of excess meetings, with casual deskside chats replaced by default half-hour Zoom calls. Analysis of employees' meeting invitations at 21,500 global companies by Harvard Business School revealed that although meetings were on average 12 minutes shorter versus pre-pandemic, people were attending 13% more of them, with the number of invitees rising by 14%.

More meetings, for more employees, mean more fragmented workdays – which impacts on productivity. Zoom fatigue creeps in, the risk of burnout spikes.

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STEVEN ROGELBERG

"It’s become too easy to take someone’s schedule away from them. People don’t think – they just click ‘yes’ to the invite"

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Meetings can enable teams to brainstorm, align thinking and take decisive action, but without clear goals, they lose focus. They often bloat – what should be a quick one-on-one conversation becomes an hour-long call requiring entire teams. 

Bad meetings have knock-on effects that spill into the workday, as well as depriving workers of their time: Meeting recovery syndrome, where workers ruminate post-meeting, can dent productivity. Constant context switching comes at a cost: it’s a form of multitasking, which our brains aren’t built to handle. 

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Humans are inherently social beings; our instinct to meet in order to strategize and share ideas predates modern civilization, let alone office culture.

As knowledge work boomed in the mid-20th Century, businesses gradually moved away from command-and-control style leadership towards collaboration. Meetings became the best process to allow the coming together of ideas, inspiring innovation.

Once video-conferencing technology became more sophisticated, meetings were no longer constrained by room size or office hours. 

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The no-meeting trend is fairly new: there's little concrete data to support whether it works and what gets lost. It’s why most of the discussion around it is anecdotal. However, it seems that without addressing pre-existing issues, an outright meeting ban simply moves the problem elsewhere.

The goal isn’t to eliminate meetings, it’s to eliminate the bad ones. You need to do the hard stuff – changing meetings and the ecosystem in which they sit so they’re more effective. Just banning them on an afternoon isn’t enough.”

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RELATED IDEA

There is ongoing turbulence in the workplace due to the uncertainties provided by the new virus, resulting in a whole lot of people working from home. Normally the work-from-home policies are established in advance, and employees are trained for the same, but current circumstances are not allowing for any transition time.

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4 lessons from remote meetings
  • Saying "go ahead" when you're overlapping with someone. Going out of your way to let other people speak is a good thing, and so is following up to make sure everyone’s been heard.
  • Schedule time for socializing. People should be encouraged to show up a few minutes early for a meeting, maybe, or there could be time for conversation on the agenda.
  • Accept multitasking. Maybe workers in the office should have the option to call in to auditoriums and conference rooms, or maybe we should just normalize people who aren’t core to a conversation working on their laptops during meetings.
  • Maybe have fewer meetings. Meetings can eat up a lot of time, and it’s worth considering whether that time is well invested—or if you could accomplish the same thing without a meeting.

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Global companies, from the UK to the US, Japan to South Korea, have recently rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies amid the spread of the new virus.

Working from home will become the new normal for many. Some employees will be working from home for the first time, and need to figure out how to stay on task.

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