By Eli Cherkasky, Chief Operating Officer, Exiger
Feel like you spend too much time in meetings (and not enough time actually doing the work)? You probably do … and you’re not alone.
If your company is ready to end the meeting malaise for your employees, try these tips.
1. Wait for the right time
When it comes to implementing company-wide changes, timing matters. Find a time when employees are already naturally embracing change (like the beginning of the year) and avoid busy periods like the end of a quarter.
We chose the end of summer. Families are sending their kids back to school, people are returning from vacations and everyone is gearing back into new habits and routines.
2. Look at all your meetings, across the board, with fresh eyes
Start with the 30,000-foot view of all your meetings. Yes, it’s daunting, but it’s the best way to get your arms around the big picture. Focus on two factors — duration and cadence.
Look for opportunities to reduce the length of standing meetings. Very few meetings (if any) should go over an hour and most discussions, particularly those with fewer than 10 participants, can be handled within 30 minutes.
Weekly meetings are also a big culprit behind chronic meeting fatigue. Identify the weekly meetings that can move to a bi-weekly or monthly basis to give time back to your employees.
3. Encourage other collaborative channels for internal communication
The way employees communicate continues to evolve. Of course, fewer people are interacting in a physical office on a regular basis, but there are multiple channels outside of meetings or spontaneous in-office conversations that enable collaboration.
We’ve encouraged our teams to ask themselves, “Could I cover this in an email?” before pushing send on that calendar invite. Could I knock this out with a quick back-and-forth on Slack? Or a five-minute call with the key decision maker?
If you’re still struggling to scale back, create guardrails that allow people to block out dedicated work time. Limit internal meetings to Monday through Thursday or within confined hours.
4. Streamline external meetings
Companies don’t have a lot of control over external or client meetings in terms of frequency or timing. But you can control how efficiently the team moves through what you need to cover. To do this, be discerning about who’s invited from your team. You should be able to make a strong case for why every participant is necessary for the meeting.
If some attendees are optional, indicate as much in the invite and encourage them to use their discretion in deciding whether their schedule and workload is conducive to joining.
5. Empower managers to own meeting decisions
Managers are on the frontlines of combating excessive meetings. They’re your greatest ally in driving change that positively impacts employees’ workloads and your greatest resource in assessing where to make those changes. Empower them to recommend what meetings can be shortened or eliminated altogether. What meeting-free times do they recommend?
Ask managers to set action items at the beginning of meetings and check against those items at the end; this encourages the team to reflect on whether the meeting achieved its purpose.
Encourage accountability and decision-making with some healthy competition. (We’re exploring rewards or a company-wide challenge to see which department can reduce the greatest volume of meeting time next quarter).
Here’s the bottom line: Meetings are a mainstay of workplace collaboration, and during the pandemic they became a lifeline for maintaining communication among remote employees. As a result, our calendars got a lot more crowded. But as companies adapt to hybrid work, it’s time to reassess all these meetings and put in place some boundaries that promote collaboration while protecting people’s independent time to focus and work.