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Make Meetings Less Hateful And More Productive

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Make Meetings Less Hateful And More Productive

When many people envision meetings, they picture a boss or supervisor spouting off demands and statistics for an extended period of time while employees stare mindlessly toward the head of the room. These meetings can be an enormous waste of time if bosses don’t involve employees, and the employees lack focus and dedication to the completion of a specific agenda. But when meetings are interactive, focused, and well-scheduled, they can be incredibly productive. Three aspects to focus on when putting together an office meeting are:

1. Making them memorable

Each meeting should stand out on its own in order to make it unique and worth remembering. Schedule meetings for odd times, such as 9:17 rather than 9:15 or 9:30. Communications manager of TINY Pulse Neal MacNamara explains that consistently scheduling meetings at 8:48 has “eliminated tardiness almost completely” within his company. Such a simple change will keep employees on their toes the morning of the meeting, and no one will come in dragging their feet a few minutes late.

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Use ice breakers to begin the meeting, but have them relate directly to the current agenda. Give employees time to get their thoughts out into the air, so they’re not afraid to speak up when the discussion swings toward the topic they were talking to a colleague about minutes earlier. This “connection before content” method has allowed employees at LivePerson to get to know each other better, and feel more comfortable speaking up about an issue they had been facing.

Josh Neblett, cofounder and CEO of the e-commerce company Etailz, believes the final 5-10 minutes of a meeting should be used for any questions or concerns that may have arisen throughout the meeting. Rather than telling employees to “come see me in my office if you have any questions,” this deliberate time is set in order to confront problems head on. This is especially effective because it’s likely that more than one person has a similar question, and the leader of the meeting can get the answer out to everyone right away rather than answering it individually five different times.

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2. Making them effective

All meetings should have a specific agenda that dictates exactly what topics will be discussed. CEO of Brivo Steve Van Till created “No Re-hash” ping pong paddles for all employees to use throughout a meeting when someone brings something up that has either already been discussed at length, or will detract from the agenda at hand. Instead of belaboring the point or wasting time saying “We’ve already talked about this, but if you have any questions…”, other members of the meeting can simply raise the paddle, and the speaker will know to save what he has to say until he can speak with the boss privately.

Other offices have implemented punishments for coming in late to meetings. These punishments aren’t severe; rather, they are humorous and embarrassing ways to deal with interruptions and tardiness. One company forces latecomers to walk in singing a nursery rhyme or other song, which, of course, makes them uncomfortable when the focus shifts from serious business to such a menial interruption. Another company has implemented a policy which forces employees to donate to the company charity if their cell phone goes off and interrupts a meeting. These detractors certainly work more than any actual discipline would while still maintaining a high sense of employee morale.

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3. Making them short

Everyone likes short meetings, right? Well, all meetings could be short if the time is used effectively. While employees should be held accountable for their timeliness and attentiveness during meetings, the person who called the meeting is the one who needs to have effective time management skills in order to be effective. Having (and sticking to) a clear, concise agenda is the first step in putting together a meeting that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Many companies implement a thirty-minute timer, knowing that people are hard-wired to be able to focus for only 25-30 minutes at a time, and anything over that time period will go in one ear and out the other. You may also consider ‘punishments’ have been implemented for running over time, such as donating to the company charity or holiday party jar. This way both attendees and the people running the meeting have to adhere to the time restriction.

Conclusion

Meetings have a bad rap because they often detract from a company’s productivity, which is the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do. Like all other progressive and innovative measures taken in the business world today, revamping the structure of meetings by thinking outside the box allows leaders to make efficient use of meetings, and makes sure employees get the most out of them.

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Featured photo credit: 140811-N-AF077-043 / Ash Carter via farm4.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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