Alexander is not the only one having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day- and he didn't even have to sit through the weekly stand-up. Reoccuring company work calls, known as "stand-up meetings," are used by management to keep track of workflows and prioritize weekly tasks among teams. Unfortunately, employees often dread these meetings as they interrupt workflows more than push them along.
In the United States, around 55 million meetings are held each week. That's at least 11 million per day and over 1 billion per year. Meetings are important, but they may not have to happen as often as you think they do.
This could have been an email:
Remote work has changed the way we communicate forever. We depend on email to translate information that used to be hand-delivered in person. When introducing a project, start by drafting it in an email. Write out each step and assign roles to each task. Define your goal before presenting the problem to your team.
Some jobs benefit from a collaborative discussion; however, don't spend the meeting sweating the small details. Instead, take advantage of the time together to promote creative solutions.
While you were away:
Though company hours have stayed the same, employees seem more available at home than they would at their office desks. Some employees use Slack on their personal devices to stay connected to the office. This complicates the boundaries between their work-life balance, leading to overworked, burnt-out employees. An average employee spends about one-third of their lifetime at work. So, be considerate of their time in and outside the office. Be intentional, clear, and concise when scheduling, leading, and ending meetings.
It's that important:
Because employees rely so heavily on technology, they are more likely to get distracted by other notifications. People receive over 300 business emails per day and check their inboxes 36 times per hour. On average, it takes 23 minutes to focus after being distracted.
Stand-up meetings typically occur in the morning, say 10 a.m. – which prevents employees from beginning projects that may require a few hours of focus. Instead, employees prepare for a presentation instead of working on the actual content they are presenting. Many meetings serve as project updates concerning past progress and tasks rather than focusing on future needs. They've "become a forum for each person to provide a detailed list of their activity. Unfortunately, activity rarely serves as an indicator for results."
Tips for better meetings:
Rather than continue with meetings that give way to distracted employees and lowered productivity, consider adjusting your meeting strategy to boost employee engagement:
Cut it in half. An entire hour for a weekly meeting will likely result in a lack of interest, distraction, and lowered productivity. Instead, aim for a 30-minute block or less and stick to it.
Only invite VIPS. All-staff meetings will take longer to address quick agenda items and can lead to off-topic debates and discussions. Save spots on the attendee list for those whose work is relevant to that meeting's agenda.
Play hooky (every now and then). If the workload is heavier this week than last, it's okay to skip one. No one will die, and at worst, a task will be delayed. You can always schedule a more intentional one-on-one with employees who need more direction than others. Trust that your employees will do the work, with or without a meeting. Recognize employees who step up and regularly engage.
Start and end on time. Refrain from calling out the stragglers in front of the group. If their lateness reoccurs, address them privately after the meeting. Dismiss at the agreed-upon time and move unaddressed items to a later date. An innocent five minutes over time can delay someone's schedule, causing future delays in other projects.
Switch it from Monday to Thursday. Instead of hitting employees with a meeting first thing in the week, choose a day better suited for show and tell. Allow some buffer time so employees can share the work they have done instead of the work they will do.
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