Why are scheduled, synchronous meetings a waste of time?
Whether it is video or in-person meetings, we have a good case for why we should have less meetings. They are synchronous, hard to document, distracting and expensive. Here are reasons why your team should try to lessen the number of meetings throughout your work day and seek out alternatives.
Meetings are not asynchronous
Due to the synchronous nature of meetings it needs to happen at the same as everyone who is attending the meeting. As you can imagine, this requires plenty of coordination and can be painful to organise. Inevitably a compromised time and date is settled upon with a couple of people missing it due to calendar clashes. Asynchronous modes of communication are preferred to ensure that people who would like to participate are given the chance to. Communication tools like JumpAsync makes it possible for team members to participate without everyone being available at the same time.
Meetings are hard to document
Sometimes we take meeting notes but sometimes we don't. It isn't standard practice to record an in-person meeting and we don't always remember to record the video meeting. We usually don't transcribe everything that's said in the meeting either. Knowledge and information shared in meetings are figuratively within the four walls (or virtual walls) of the room. Newcomers are not able to access information shared in past meetings easily. Meetings give rise to informal information, “I think he/she said so-and-so in the meeting last month”. Strive to capture structured information instead by using CMS systems that will allow people to search, edit and upload information in a consistent way.
Meetings cut into deep work time
We have touched upon the asynchronous nature of meetings. Oftentimes the only time that works for the team cuts right in the middle of a block of time that could have been used as distraction-free work time to complete important work tasks. Context switching between meetings and deep work is extremely distracting. Research shows it takes around 25 minutes regain focus after a distraction, different parts of your brain are activated for every switch.
Meetings can be inefficient and time-consuming
We all know that time is zero-sum. Every second in an irrelevant or inefficient meeting eats into time for doing work that require critical thinking or concentration. When we cannot be creative nor productive, we end up working extra hours to make up for time. Meetings often have a relatively loose structure. The agenda may be vague, participants may be prone to go down rabbit holes of information, and next steps are usually left unclear. Which leads to even more meetings or side conversations to sort things out.
Meetings are fiscally expensive
The next time you are in the meeting, break down the attendees’ salaries and mentally calculate the total costs spent on an hour of meeting. The cost of inviting someone to a meeting just to “sit in the meeting” or “loop them into the discussion” adds up quickly. Think about the total sum spent on this meeting, was it worth the outcome? Could the attendees have added more to the bottom-line if they were not in the meeting but instead working on creating more value in the company.
Meetings does not fosters relationships
There is a misconception that meetings help with team building, company culture or bonding. Which in turn fosters relationships, information exchange and cooperation. However this can be further from the truth. Personal relationships at work are often cultivated when bumping into colleagues in the pantry, chatting about family or weekend plans and so on. These informal interactions builds social capital which has an impact on teamwork and knowledge sharing in companies.
Since the covid pandemic, employees have been spending more time in meetings than ever. However they report more isolation and less connection with the people the work with. Personal relationships at work takes time and effort. Since workers are occupied with constant meetings, it is no wonder they are unable to find the time to expand their networks and bond with colleagues.
It pays to focus their energy on transforming meetings instead of just tolerating them. In upcoming posts we will be covering a range of topics like effective alternatives to meetings, checklists before you organise a meeting and more.