Could Banning Meetings Be the Key to a Happier Workforce?
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The workplace expectations of employees have changed dramatically over the past two years. As we’ve seen from the Great Resignation, people are looking for roles with purpose, a better work-life balance and access to the technology that will allow them to do their jobs as efficiently as possible. This shift has led to a decreased tolerance for wasting time on video calls and spending hours per day on them. In fact, 80% of U.S. workers said they had attended a “useless” meeting in their current job.
We were ahead of the game in this area. As a company with a 2,700-person global workforce, we were already used to the challenges of managing teams remotely, across multiple time zones. This schedule coordination forces employees to be more focused on the value of each meeting, especially if it threatens their time. To address this, in late 2019, we made the decision to formally ban internal emails and meetings.
Instead, we embrace asynchronous communications. It’s a model that empowers our workforce to work at the most productive times and places to deliver their best results. This helps reduce “Zoom fatigue” by allowing employees to take charge of their responsibilities according to their own schedules.
Negating time zones to build lasting bonds
Removing the need for real-time comms means fewer distractions, and longer uninterrupted chunks of time for producing and creating. Employees are no longer limited to working in a certain time frame due to the need to overlap with colleagues. This creates an environment that encourages collaboration and productivity across the globe.
Many companies worry that asynchronous communication will eliminate the human element of the workplace experience. This has not been an issue for us. Instead, teams seek out each other on a personal level. Conversations on more informal platforms like Slack may be about team members’ weekend plans or old-fashioned water cooler talk. They aren’t forced to meet in the same place as their teammates. Teams will communicate even if they are not able to communicate simultaneously. Moving collaboration to shared platforms allows team members to create on the terms that they prefer. Rather than diminishing relationships between team members, it actually enhances them, because they’re no longer dependent on whether someone is free at 10: 00 a.m. on a Tuesday for a regular project progress call.
Creating a transparent workplace
Emails can be a quick way to provide information, but they also have many flaws. Transparency is largely dependent on the sender’s ability to “copy” the correct people. How many times have team members gone on vacation only to discover that their colleagues don’t know where a discussion is?
Particularly in an environment that is highly remote, it’s important to empower people to make autonomous decisions. You can’t expect people working together if they aren’t on the same page. You can ensure that all information is easily accessible by removing communication from email and live meetings and instead sharing it on a platform that everyone can access. This means that you don’t have to wait for a reply from a colleague. It’s already at your fingertips.
To create a team that is flexible and willing to try new things, you need to recruit people. Next, ensure that they are able to understand the new way of thinking. The more non-standard the culture is, the deeper and lengthier your onboarding process has to be. TheSoul teaches new employees how to communicate with one another. New employees are taught how to communicate with each other over a learning curve. This allows them to take the information in their stride before they get into the work process. We train against the instinctive desire to organize a meeting to solve problems.
Deciding when a meeting is required
It would be foolish to assume that a meeting is not necessary. Like any business, there are times when face-to-face communication is essential, whether that’s in person or via a screen. Meetings can be held in special circumstances.
We have specific criteria for when and how to arrange a meeting. First of all, the employee needs to attempt to resolve the issue using our project management platforms. If this proves to be impossible, they must create an agenda for the proposed meeting and schedule at least 24 hours in advance, to avoid disrupting a colleague’s workflow and to be respectful of their time.
We also limit the number participants. Our rule of thumb is two people only and 30 minutes maximum. This forces the meeting host to be laser-focused on what must be done. Each meeting is followed up with detailed notes and shared with the wider group. For virtual meetings, we also keep the spirit of transparency alive by recording and posting the session to the shared project management workflow.
It is perhaps not surprising that meeting organizers are discouraged from calling them unless absolutely necessary.
A win-win situation
Having a busy schedule is a major cause of stress and can be detrimental to your ability to succeed at TheSoul. We don’t want people wasting their time on calls with no tangible results. We want them to be able focus on their work within their day and have the ability to use their creativity, innovation, and expertise to fill the role. We know that this policy may not work for everyone. We aim to hire flexible learners who can use technology to manage their own workflows and meet deadlines. They will be more open to the standard and thrive in a better work environment if they have these capabilities.