Many of our clients are reporting their ‘real’ work only happens before 9am and after 5pm as they spend the rest of the day bouncing between meetings.
Microsoft report a 252% increase in the weekly time spend in meetings for the average Teams user since February 2020.
Since the pandemic there has been a pull towards more and more meetings, with many of our clients reiterating their struggle to get ‘deep work’ done during traditional working hours.
Perhaps this is driven by the pressures to build digital connections in the hybrid working world or that our working set-up allows us to book in back-to-back meetings whilst we are at home. Or (what we suspect here at Up Rising) that there is a lack of appreciation that solo-work or deep work is crucial to success and creativity and instead working cultures have evolved to value presenteeism (in meetings) and the curse of busyness.
Whilst the hybrid working world allows for the individual to take control of their day and make flexible work their own, the risk for digital overload and a resulting productivity decrease is real. With the additional pressures that come from the culture of confusion that busyness equals productivity. It does not.
Without a clear understanding of what it means to be productive, many employees and managers default to appearing busy to demonstrate their value – and what better way to signal this than by a day full of “essential” meetings.
Recent research published by Harvard Business Review highlighted that newly promoted managers hold almost a third (29%) more meetings than their seasoned counterparts suggesting that the one of the ways pressures to appear on top of things manifests itself is in excessive meetings.
One of Up Rising’s key parameters for an unhealthy working culture is busyness being seen as a badge of honour. To read more on this see our recent blog: When is it time for a company culture intervention?
Too often large organisations will fall into the trap of filling their seniority and managers time with meetings to discuss work, rather than allowing them individual time to focus on their task.
The savvy manager will block out time in their diary during the working day to be able to focus on their output – but not every working environment provides their managers with the support that makes them feel able to do this. Microsoft’s findings reflect a working world where increasingly ‘Managers feel wedged between leadership and employee expectations’ with 74% of managers saying they do not have the influence or resources to make changes on behalf of their employees.
Organisations need to develop a culture where their individuals are trusted and feel empowered to allocate their own time to their own output. Employees need to understand what “deep work” looks like (not sitting through endless meetings) and how their contribution will be measured (not by presenteeism).
We need to stop the practice of back-to-back meetings and create space and time in diaries to think, create and be inspired.
We need to rethink our use of the meeting and what it is designed to do: bringing a selected group of people together for a tangible purpose. Rarely to recurring weekly meetings achieve this as a goal.
It’s not just us that think meetings need to be radically looked at, research shows that when meetings declined by 80%, the perception that employees had that they were being micromanaged lessened by 74%. People felt valued, trusted, and more engaged (44%), subsequently working harder for their company. Communication was 65% clearer and substantially more effective.
How do you know when your meetings are malfunctioning?
Here are our top tips on how to identify the bad meetings:
- They start late
- Someone crucial is missing
- Requirement of someone to recap at least twice for the late joiners
- Silo-style info updates
- Some bickering or positioning
- Non-urgent updates
- Meeting overruns.
And here is what we suggest as best practice for better meetings:
- Starts on time
- Thoughtful length – 20 mins, 40 mins, 55 mins – do not let Outlook dictate how long you need
- Agreed purpose with materials circulated in advance
- Necessary people present – everyone else gets on with their day
- Agreed measure of success for the meeting
- Agreed ground rules of engagement and respect
- Important items discussed and agreed
- Meeting ends on time or early!
If you would like support with any aspect of your working culture, do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.