Post-Pandemic: Meeting Fatigued? Zoom’d Out?
As we return to the office post-pandemic, it is important to protect our time, and not be overtaken by meetings—either virtual or in-person. I am hearing more and more of our clients discussing how their schedules are “out of control” and that virtual meetings have “taken over.” It has become so overwhelming that several C-level teams have created meeting guidance for their employees as part of their return-to-office plans. Perhaps instead, we should tend to our calendars and meetings like we would a Bonsai tree and prune away the unnecessary to create more beauty and balance.
As a longtime supporter of flexible work, I was not surprised to see all the studies on the improvements in productivity as people worked from home during the pandemic1. I am also not shocked that this is a working arrangement that many people want to continue to enjoy2, after all who really wants to lose time to a commute every day?
What did come as a surprise was the avalanche of meeting requests that have pervaded the calendars of many of my executive clients. In fact, many clients have made controlling their own time and calendar a major development goal over the past year. The truth is many meetings are the antithesis to productivity3.
At Summit, we researched and pulled from our own best practices to create the following recommendations for those struggling with these issues.
At the organization level, providing guidance for coordinating successful meetings and creating accountability can be very helpful. This might include things like:
• Expectation that meeting agendas and pre-reads go out 48 hours in advance. No agenda= No meeting
• Conserving meeting time for making decisions and allocating “information sharing” to other channels
• Calculating the ROI on the meeting and asking if there are “low value” meetings that should be deleted or otherwise reconfigured
• Allowing people to decline meetings
• Setting up days or afternoons where no meetings occur and sticking with it
• Sending out meeting notes to keep people informed and reducing the number of people who attend
At an individual level, it may feel uncomfortable at first to push back and hold your boundaries concerning meetings. Remember, it is your time! You alone are responsible for knowing what you must deliver, and you have to make the time to do those things. Try some of the following:
• Say no nicely- try “I trust you can handle that, and I look forward to the update.”
• Delegate- do you really have to participate, or could someone go in your place (look for win-win opportunities like a person who might gain exposure or insight by attending).
• Book “off limits time” in your calendar – no explanation needed, just chunks of time that you hold in your calendar to get stuff done.
• Remember that your personal time is not “free time.” Hold your boundaries so that you are not giving up all your nights and weekends unnecessarily.
• Reallocate your “commute time.” If you are saving time by working remotely, use that same time to do something nice for yourself or your family. For example, work out, go for a walk, or fix dinner together. Reclaiming that time for your personal balance will make you more motivated and less stressed, resulting in higher productivity at work.
As we all find our new normal, we should review our calendars and meetings and ensure that we are treating time—our own and our colleagues’–with the respect it deserves.
1Morris, Chris. Worker Productivity in the Post-Pandemic Era. Nasdaq.com. April 16, 2021. https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/worker-productivity-in-the-post-pandemic-era-2021-04-16
2 National Survey, A Majority of US Employees Want Remote Work Arrangements to Stay. getabstract.com. April 2020. https://journal.getabstract.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/ga_remote_survey_2020_compressed.pdf
3 Rogelberg, Steven. The Power of You to Truly Make Meetings Work. Ted.com. https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_rogelberg_the_power_of_you_to_truly_make_meetings_work