If you and your company shifted to remote work in the last few weeks, you've probably felt the urge to add meetings to your schedule to make up for the lack of unplanned face-to-face interactions that happen in the office. With loneliness ranking as the second most common challenge among remote workers, according to a survey by Buffer, creating more opportunities for interaction makes sense.
However, simply throwing more meetings on the calendar is likely to hamper your people's productivity without preventing isolation. According to software provider Atlassian, the average professional already spends 3.1 hours per day in meetings and rates half of that time as unproductive. Perhaps more surprising, a study published in Harvard Business Review reported that 65 percent of senior managers say meetings fail to bring their teams closer together.
While it may make sense to increase your interactions with team members during this unprecedented time, avoid wasting time in these meetings by doing the following:
Do a recurring meetings reset.
Recurring meetings waste time when you forget to cancel them and either you don't need to meet during that instance of the meeting or the meeting is no longer necessary. If you do a reset, you'll likely find that some are necessary but not at the same frequency and some don't require a regular frequency at all.
In addition to periodic resets, it's helpful to take time at the end of each week to review the upcoming week's recurring meetings to see if they'll be necessary that week.
Make presentations and updates asynchronous.
Meetings are disruptive because they require all attendees to set aside the same time and go through all the same content at the same pace. This disruption is worth the benefit when the topics are complex, and you expect considerable discussion.
However, when information flow is one-sided, asynchronous communication channels (email, pre-recorded video or audio recordings) are better because they allow people to engage the information at the best time, pace, and level of depth for them. Avoid meetings where you'll primarily listen to someone else talk.
Avoid meetings about simple topics.
Simple topics generally don't require much conversation, making meetings unnecessary. In your review of the next week's meetings, do a simplicity test. Any meeting with an agenda that covers only simple topics should be canceled and replaced with an asynchronous communication.
Postpone meetings when all decision-makers can't attend.
According to a study by 3M, a third of meetings don't contain all relevant people. Meeting without all key decision-makers creates complicated follow-up work, saps the original meeting of its usefulness, and/or leads to a second, duplicate meeting days or weeks later.
People don't always respond to calendar invitations. To avoid showing up for a meeting that lacks key players, follow up with the decision-makers when you review the upcoming week's meetings if you're unsure of their attendance.
Try to skip meetings with more than 20 people
British historian C. Northcote Parkinson called 20 people the coefficient of inefficiency because, in his experience, governmental cabinets with more than 20 members struggled to make decisions. The importance of psychological safety to team success also suggests that large meetings will hurt performance. Team members feel safe when everyone speaks for roughly the same amount of time, something that is impossible when too many people are present.
While not always possible, when invited to large meetings, see if another attendee can represent you, notes can be shared, or you can attend just for the relevant parts.
Rather than blindly adding meetings to your and your company's calendar, use this unique opportunity to right-size the amount of time you spend in meetings.