7 Ideas to Keep Meetings Productive
Post notes – I’d like to put a caveat in at the start that this post isn’t an outright criticism of meetings when they’re genuinely productive. Many scheduled meetings are incredibly important, and a lot of good quality work and ideas are created through real-time shared discussions. This post is dedicated more towards when meetings start taking precedence over genuine productivity and are relied upon as the sole form of communication.
It’s undoubtedly meant that businesses have been able to stay connected to clients and colleagues while retaining the face-to-face human element that’s so vital in meeting interactions.
And while workers slowly begin to transition back to the office, either full-time or continuing on a part-time basis, we don’t see the trend in videoconferencing usage dwindling anytime soon.
In fact, with the popularity of applications such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Pexip only increasing over lockdown, UC hardware that integrates with these platforms has become an integral part of the return-to-office campaign and something we’re proud to offer in abundance at Nuvias UC.
But with how easy it is now to ‘jump on a call’ for all sorts of queries, ranging from the necessary to what could have been two lines in an email, how can we combat a prevailing sense of meeting fatigue as we seek to continue benefiting from the increased adoption of videoconferencing?
More meetings doesn’t always mean more productive meetings
One of the benefits we discussed previously looked at how videoconferencing has helped increase meeting productivity and flexibility.
Being able to host and attend from anywhere while also being able to structure a meeting between, and around, specific times and dates makes it more tempting to cram in as many as possible.
But more meetings don’t always mean better quality meetings.
Shoehorning meetings into the diary one after the other without any clear itinerary on the topic/s being discussed, or what each invitee is expected to contribute only serves to increase the chance of attendee disengagement.
Meetings should be clearly outlined with a topic and itinerary, and what is expected from each member. This allows for each invitee to determine, well in advance, if the meeting is really relevant to them and if their time could be better suited on other priorities.
Packing in meeting after meeting on top of an individual’s existing workload, without a clear goal, only serves to take up more time and therefore increase potential stress levels. And with the average sufferer missing 21.6 days each year due to work-related stress*, this is something that can be easily avoided with proper due diligence and communication as suggested above.
Meetings that cause unnecessary overtime
Diaries packed full of meetings limit the amount of time individuals can spend on their actual work, producing work of substance, contributing to the growth of their employer, and furthering their personal development.
Unnecessary meetings take time away from these activities and place further burden on those in attendance to get their work done within a shorter timeframe.
This could result in more work needing to be undertaken outside of contracted working hours putting further strain and stresses on the individual and potentially on relationships and commitments outside of work.
This could further increase the chance of employee burnout resulting in further mental health issues for the individual, and losses to the business from employee sick leave.
Nowhere has this been highlighted more than studies into Google’s search data during 2020 revealing a 24% spike in burnout symptoms being entered into the search giant’s database.**
Of course, an abundance of meetings won’t be the sole reason for this increase but will almost certainly be a contributing factor; with less time within working hours to complete work, more and more workers will be forced into working more hours when they should be tucking their kids into bed or taking time out with loved ones.
A casual approach
Now that we’re starting to experience face-to-face interaction again, we can consider replacing some of the unnecessary structured meetings with approaching people in the office again.
Sure, a meeting’s length can be customised manually by the host by typing in exact times, but there’s always the temptation to think “yeah that’ll do” as you select the minimum 30-minute time slot template.
If it’s just a small query or favour, we can start to weigh up if it’ll be quicker and more beneficial to take a quick trip across the office floor and speak to them in person.
If this isn’t possible, would a quick phone call suffice to get all the information you need? Making sure the person understands that ‘this is only a quick query’ also helps them understand that this isn’t going to take up too much of their time. A five-minute call or walk across the office may have just saved what might have typically been a 30-minute, scheduled meeting.
Our 7 suggestions to keep meetings productive…
So how do we strike that all-important balance? We’ve briefly mentioned a number of options above, but let’s summarise and introduce some concrete solutions.
- Clearly outline the topic of the meeting and what is expected from each attendee.
- Consider whether a meeting is even needed; would a quick call or walk across the office suffice now that we’re able to do so?
- Structure specific ‘do not disturb’ periods. This can vary person to person but could include specific hours of the day (maybe the first hour and last hour of each day), specific days of the week, or even specific weeks within the month. Microsoft Teams makes this easier than ever through the drop-down option under your profile picture, making people aware of your intentions before they even consider sending you a message or giving you a call.
- Don’t be afraid of the manual meeting time edit. Most meeting platforms (including Outlook) default to 30-minute time slots. If you don’t need that long, edit the time manually to the required time.
- Consider which invitees are necessary and which could be optional. Give those who aren’t absolutely necessary to the discourse to decline attendance without the awkwardness.
- Be punctual. It sounds obvious, but the smooth running of a meeting, and it ending on time, relies on people attending at the time they’re supposed to.
- Send quality follow-up notes. It doesn’t have to be pages and pages long, but quality post-meeting notes with actionable takeaways helps prevent having to have additional meetings that cover what has already been discussed.
Video communication has helped us retain a sense of normality and familiarity over the last 18months.
But managing and maintaining expectations and remaining productive when organising meetings is a must so that we can retain the incredible benefits that videoconferencing affords.
This is sure to only get better and better with the wealth of supporting hardware now available that integrate with the world’s most popular platforms.
Make meeting moments matter.