Few workplace tropes are as apt as the useless meeting. Those of us who have left our twenties far behind know all too well how much of a problem this was even in the pre-Covid era. In 2013, Atlassian estimated that unnecessary meetings cost US businesses $37 billion in lost salary hours yearly.
Back then, executives spent nearly 23 hours per week in meetings, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s. Even a decade ago, nearly half of all workers (47 percent) felt their biggest time-waster was too many meetings, while more than seven out of ten said they brought other work to meetings, underscoring just how little they expected to get done.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. How popular did video conferencing become when the pandemic hit? In April 2020, Cisco’s Webex logged 25 billion meeting minutes, more than a three-fold increase from that January. But the better question, one much more difficult to calculate, is how many of these meetings were necessary or effective.**
At the start of the pandemic, many managers went a bit overboard to make their newly isolated workforce more comfortable, mandating online happy hours and pizza parties. Unsurprisingly, this yielded mixed results.
Many workers found little joy in the obligatory get-togethers, mainly because, in one of the most nerve-wracking periods of their lives, potential chill time became work time. Today’s crucial managerial skill is the ability to determine when a meeting is necessary and when a group chat will suffice.
Zoom Fatigue, we all know now, is not a myth: In April 2021, Virtira surveyed more than
1,700 managers and employees and found that about half (49 percent) had
wearied of the frequent need to be on camera and appear at least moderately enthusiastic.
We recommend seeking ways to make meetings fun. In 2020, Virtira hosted a two-day virtual conference where we asked people to present on a personally meaningful topic. Some discussed their work, while others presented on pet projects, including their pets. In 2021, we organized a virtual talent show where attendees had 2-3 minutes to showcase their skills. The event was not without its cringe-worthy moments, but it was a ton of fun in the end. Best of all, we all got to know each other better — which will pay dividends down the line.
We also use icebreakers to increase engagement. When meeting with a new group, an icebreaker will help people shift focus away from all the noise and activity they’re constantly bombarded with on their desktop. The 5 minutes you invest in an icebreaker will get everyone settled into the meeting.
You’ll see more engagement and higher quality feedback from the participants.
You can download our ice-breaker suggestion guide in the link below.
But whether or not meetings are enjoyable, managers and team leaders need to ask themselves if it’s really necessary before calling them. All meetings, particularly virtual ones, should have a clear purpose beyond simply sharing information.
** We see these as the two best indicators of meeting utility. In large part, the level of necessity is about pre-meeting — the understanding and determination, beforehand, that the meeting needs to happen. Effectiveness is a measure of the host’s organizational ability, attendees’ willingness to engage and overall impact. A necessary meeting could end up being ineffective, while an unnecessary meeting could deliver some information that ends up driving greater productivity. The best of both worlds, of course, is a necessary meeting that ends up being terribly effective.
A series of 3 articles – The Power of Planning for Remote
With increased demand for hybrid and fully remote work styles, most firms understand that some form of distance work is here to stay – and have put some remote protocols in place. But are they the right ones?
It’s time to take advantage of the many opportunities remote work presents. Stop saying “we’re not there yet,” and start saying “we’ve arrived!”
This book will show you how.
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