Work meetings are an increasingly controversial topic these days. Some love them, others hate them.
So, what’s the sweet spot?
In our work and research, human interaction is one of the most powerful, effective and rewarding pursuits. But only if done right.
According to UNC professor Steven Rogelberg, half of all meetings are a waste of time.
The question is, which half?
1. CONSIDER ASYNCHRONOUS
A good starting point is the understanding of synchronous and asynchronous communication. The former is interactive and two-way (workshops and meetings), whilst the latter isn’t (emails, newsletters, video and audio posts). Wherever possible, consider if asynchronous will get the job done. It saves time for all involved, allows recipients to access the information at a time and pace that suits them, enhances record keeping and, most importantly, is the least disruptive, enabling deep work.
Harvard professor Vijay Periera’s Meeting Reset study revealed a reduction in stress by 57% and, surprisingly, an increase in clarity of message by 65% by following this.
2. FULL ENGAGEMENT
Our experience suggests that with online and phone meetings – most people are multi-tasking. Whilst having the camera turned on reduces this, we have evidenced people checking emails and texts even in face-to-face meetings. Following agreed rules on full engagement is important.
3. PREPARED, BRIEF & DISCIPLINED
A two-hour meeting with three of your staff costs your organisation one working day!
In our work, at least half of meeting attendees are unprepared, unbriefed, or just winging it – the cost: time and credibility.
There’s no requirement to fill the scheduled time. If the mission is accomplished or the participants are fading – call time.
Discipline in contribution: brevity, avoiding repetition, adding value, listening first, etc. are good practices that all must adhere to.
Redesigning meetings results in 70% time savings, according to Pereira.
4. OUTCOME & ACTION-ORIENTED
Have a purpose for the meeting and the conversations in it.
If you want feedback – encourage dissent.
If you want ideas or contributions, set targets.
If you want a decision, seek it and record it.
Wherever there is an action or open look – ensure it is well clarified.
We suggest: WHO | WHEN | WHAT (WHY & HOW) for every action.
5. MEETING FREE DAYS
Block time away from meetings for deep work. The best way to achieve this is meeting-free days.
If at all possible, avoid Monday mornings for meetings. Our experience suggests this is the least effective time for meetings – Friday afternoons come a close second.
Pereira’s research also found that just two meeting-free days resulted in 71% increased productivity – employees felt more empowered and autonomous.
Cancelling unwanted meetings resulted in a further 30% time savings.
It is important to note that 1-on-1 meetings, meetings with customers, prospective clients and even suppliers and stakeholders are critical to an organisation’s success. Reducing human interaction has a direct negative effect on growth and even happiness. The key is effectiveness and efficiencies – but without ever compromising the sanctity of the human being.