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Quick Thought – Meeting Free Days Also Say Something About Your Workplace Culture

Similar to what I wrote last week about workplaces that are shutting down for a week, I also have some thoughts on organizations that are going “meeting-free” one day a week or some other variety of having some time set aside to be “meeting-free”.

As I mentioned about closing the business, I appreciate the thought here. As this article points out, the sudden change to being remote has created a lot more meetings that we are used to, and they are wearing us out:

The challenge now, of course, is to coordinate this new normal and to ensure that companies remain productive while their employees have a good work-life balance. Remote working has meant more meetings with more people, more emails, and longer working hours.

Obviously, if you have days that are just back-to-back meetings, it’s difficult to get anything done. There’s no time to simply sit and work on something. Frankly, one of the real detriments to having so many meetings during the course of one day is that, unless you took very careful notes, you start to confuse what was discussed in one meeting, with the prior ones. This is actually a real risk when you’re talking about client meetings, confusing one topic of discussion as having been one client, when it was a different one is not just embarrassing, it could be dangerous.

But, the true fix for this is to figure out how to get by with fewer meetings, to use alternative ways of communicating, Slack, Teams, email, etc. all often suffice for the kind of communication that needs to take place, getting everyone together on a call isn’t always necessary.

Yes, I am on record as saying that the most important thing in a remote workplace is communication, in fact, I’m a fan of over-communicating. That doesn’t have to mean more meetings though. It can, honestly, just mean making use of all of the communication tools we have, especially when the discussion does not need to be had in real-time.

If you make Monday “meeting-free” but cram five days’ worth of meetings into the other four days of the week, you’re not helping the situation. You’re just rearranging deck chairs. The real change comes in figuring out how to make do with less meeting time, by taking advantage of alternatives when that makes sense, and by learning how to have more efficient meetings. (Start by not scheduling every meeting for 1 hour, for example. A 10-minute conversation can be a 10-minute meeting. There is no law that says all meetings must be divisible into 30-minute increments just because your Outlook calendar defaults to that.)

So, if you’re creating “meeting-free” days or blocks of time, I’m glad you see the problem and are trying to do something about it. You should be congratulated for that, but I’d also like to consider ways to simply have fewer meetings. Maybe then we wouldn’t need meeting-free blocks set aside, we could just act like human beings.

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