What can we do with all these work meetings?
1 April 2023
Many studies indicate that the main reason people quit their jobs is burnout. These studies even pointed to holding many meetings as one of the main factors causing that feeling of burnout.
Studies that focused on the changes in work habits brought about by Covid19 found that more than half of the employees working a hybrid job experienced "Zoom fatigue" and reported that meetings interfere with their work: the meetings take too long, are stressful, and harm productivity, yet is their chance to be seen and heard especially when working remotely.
It was also found that the hybrid work model, in which a fixed number of working days from the office and from home are defined, resulted in a further increase in the number of meetings attended by employees. One of the reasons for this lies in the fact that in the new hybrid work reality (usually comprised of working three days from the office and two days from home), interactions that previously occurred naturally and spontaneously between employees who worked side by side occur less, and more proactive meetings are needed. This is especially evident among young managers who, since they lack the ability to connect with their team members personally in the hybrid work environment, tend to choose digital connection as a management method for "seeing and being seen."
Trust and work relationships undoubtedly depend on the quality and frequency of contact between employees. At the same time, the question arises as to whether meetings are the best way, in a hybrid reality, to attain this.
A study by researchers from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom published in March in the Journal of Business Research claims that the cultural and managerial practice of reducing meetings is actually preferable since it signifies the granting of autonomy to employees and allows them to design and grants them more control more of their actions and time, thereby increasing the meaning that they found at work. According to the study, when the number of meetings is reduced by 40%, the employees' productivity increases by 70% since they feel empowered and more independent and assume responsibility for their actions instead of scheduling a meeting with the boss. In this process, the feeling of satisfaction also improves by 50%.
So, for those of us who are convinced that this data reinforces the need to question one of our most deeply rooted work habits and examine whether we really need so many meetings, here are some practical tips and recommendations for streamlining and reducing their number:
Before making an appointment - consider if you really need it.
Distinguish between main and subsidiary issues and call a meeting only if you really need it and not because it is available at the click of a button.
Small and effective forum:
Call only those to which the meeting pertains and only include one representative from each rank so that the participants will have the authority to make decisions.
When inviting others to meetings we sometimes tend to invite too many people just to not offend anyone; As invitees to meetings - we fear that if we are not at the meeting we will miss information, an opportunity, or even social capital.
Therefore, in order for people to agree not to come to the meetings, we need to make sure that they do not miss information or an opportunity to affect decisions and that their existence is not neglected.
Orderly agenda, goals, and objectives:
Define for each meeting a participant responsible for preparing an agenda that includes the topics for discussion and the decisions on the agenda. The agenda should be sent before the meeting so that the employees can prepare in advance. If, for example, the purpose of the meeting is brainstorming - this must be noted in the agenda and adhered to during the meeting. The meeting manager is also the one who summarizes it and sends the decisions and tasks to the participants.
Shorten meeting times:
When time is short, and the purpose of the meeting is clear to the participants - productivity increases. Only relevant content is discussed, and the time is fully utilized.
Emails as an alternative to meetings: I
f possible, prefer precise emails with the following structure: current situation, problems, alternatives, and everything that is used to make decisions. For example, a team meeting can be substituted by a message in which each participant writes what they have on the agenda and whether they need advice or help. In such a situation, sometimes a meeting is not required at all.
And finally, meetings are undoubtedly of great importance to employees' sense of commitment and connectedness to their workplace, to their satisfaction, and to collaborating with different employees. Therefore, we don't suggest you try or aim to eliminate them entirely, but use them in a measured and intelligent manner. And equally important, to develop additional ways suitable for today's work environments to generate these crucial feelings.