We need to talk about meetings
and the unbelievable amount of time they consume
Spending time with remote workers over the years, this is an old bugbear that newbies to the remote working world are now discovering. Why do we need to have so many damn meetings?
The average team meeting can run from 45mins to over an hour. During these meetings, once the standard social graces have been met, most of us walk away thinking… “Well that was a useful 10mins out of 60” and yes, it could have been covered in an email.
If we’re spending all this time “checking in” with one another, when are we supposed to get any work done?
Tons of research on this topic exists and they all point to the same thing. We need to talk about meetings and the unbelievable amount of time they consume!
But first, let’s look at the numbers. In 2019 Doodle embarked on a massive survey looking at 19 million meetings, including interviews in Europe and the US. The survey concluded that 43% of attendees were unclear on objectives and next steps. And 44% felt the sheer amount of time meetings consumed left them with too little to complete their work.
To be clear, whether in person or by video, the results are the same.
Is it because we don’t trust our employees to do the job? Is it because we have an irrational need to see our employees, rather than their work? Or are we just social creatures that crave a bit of interaction?
It’s true that inspired ideas are often “born” during meetings. And it’s also true that spontaneous interactions at the water cooler in the office, also lead to great ideas. Therefore we’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater here. Meetings are useful and important when done correctly.
That begs the question, what is a meeting done correctly?
“A meeting consists of a group of people who have little to say – until after the meeting.” ― P.K. Shaw
Indeed. Raise your hand if the above quote rings true. I confess I had no idea who P.K Shaw was before I found that quote, and it doesn’t really matter. The man has a point.
Set the Agenda
Before the scheduled meeting, set the agenda. Why? It allows participants ahead of time to prepare accordingly. Moreover, it creates the space needed for thinking and contributions ahead of the meeting.
Time control in a meeting is super important. Keep to your schedule, without cutting off important discussion points. Be alert to digressions and stop them before they eat too much time out of the meeting.
Taking clear action points from a meeting makes all the difference. Too often from the research done, attendees walk out of a meeting with no clarity on next steps. Make sure you communicate action points clearly and repeat them once the meeting is adjourned by email.
A quick email to attendees after the meeting requesting feedback will help resolve any misunderstandings. Take this opportunity to ask your team for any suggestions on how to make the next meeting even better.
With the world in lock-down, employees and employers are adjusting to the new reality of working remotely, fast. The time to resist unnecessary meetings is now. Managing your time key. If a simple email or Slack channel can do the job, make use of it.
Remember that the more time your team spends in meetings, the less time they have to do their work. It’s really as simple as that. Trust them and leave them to do what they need to do.
There are a wealth of online tools available to help manage your teams effectively and they’re all great. My advice would be to avoid overloading your team with too many new applications and processes, especially now.
Take your time and do your homework first. Once you’re 100% sure that the application will improve the way you work, test it. Once you’ve tested it, only then release it to the rest of your team to use.
A good list of online tools – https://kickofflabs.com/blog/30-tools-for-managing-a-remote-team/