Office Culture: A world without pointless meetings

Meetings are a universal feature of corporate life, but are they robbing teams of precious productivity time while achieving relatively little? 

As remote and hybrid working become mainstream post pandemic, with the first four day working week soon to be launched in SA, the real value of meetings as a mechanism to manage projects and boost productivity is being brought into question.

Next time you reach for your team chat window to schedule a last-minute meeting, you may want to stop and consider whether there’s a better way of communicating the issue at hand.

Let’s take a look at the seemingly overwhelming need for meetings and the alternatives that companies around the world are exploring to get the job done with no time wasted.

Meetings for the sake of meetings kill productivity

Long-standing business traditions usually have a very good reason for existing and it’s not hard to find a whole list of benefits that come with holding meetings. The question is, does every meeting actually offer these?

  • Productive meetings allow team members and management to come together and discuss key issues without the risk of ambiguity that emerges when communicating by email or work chat.
  • In-person meetings also provide the opportunity for team members to bond, speak openly, and get to know each other better in a professional context. 
  • This platform for unity and synchronised effort is one of the things that many companies lost during the pandemic with 100% remote working, and there’s no question that bringing the team together can produce more productive results.

The benefits of holding meetings are undeniable, but it’s also true that not every meeting provides opportunities for relationship development and strategic planning.

In fact, many meetings are simply routine events, where a group of people who don’t particularly want to be there go through the motions in order to satisfy managers who try to solve every problem by calling an impromptu meeting.

This type of meeting – which team members may start to see as a waste of time – is bad for productivity because it wastes the minutes and hours that your team could be spending on productive tasks that increase revenue and profitability.  It can also be very damaging for team morale and could even result in an increase in staff turnover rate due to employee dissatisfaction. 

Striking a balance between the lack of direction that comes with no meetings, and the demotivating drag that meeting overwhelm can cause, is essential for every business in the hybrid working era.

Setting the agenda for a productive meeting

The ideal meeting is a gathering of people, be they clients, co-workers or team members and management, that results in the generation of new ideas or the creation of solutions for problems that individual members can’t solve by themselves.

To attain these kinds of results, a meeting needs to be structured with a clear end goal in mind and should only involve people who are directly responsible and involved in the issue being discussed.

Here are some tips for effective meetings that generate results and maximise engagement from all present.

Choose the right venue

As companies return to the office and adopt hybrid working models, selecting a visually appealing area of the office to conduct meetings has never been more important.

If a meeting is important enough to require everyone’s presence, it should be held in a specific meeting venue. 

Sitting around the general work area or congregating near a coffee machine is ideal for a chat, and this may be suitable for some industries or companies with a deliberately casual working style. But, in order to ensure effective time management, team members will need to sense that they’re attending a scheduled meeting and not simply touching base.

Set the agenda ahead of time

Every meeting needs to have a clearly defined agenda with specific discussion points and end goals. 

  • If a specific issue is being discussed, outlining the challenges and seeking input from all people involved as well as timelines for submitting action reports, and for completing the required steps should be stated clearly.
  • If you expect the members of your meeting to read a background report or other materials, they’ll need to receive these before the meeting – preferably several days in advance. The longer they have to read through the materials, the more likely they are to digest key information – and the less time you’ll need to spend recapping during the meeting.

When in doubt, avoid meeting overwhelm – don’t call a meeting

If you find yourself planning a meeting even though you don’t have enough information or a clear vision to create a firm agenda using the steps above, it’s probably not worth doing.

Meetings should especially be avoided if they involve critical feedback directed at just one or two members of the team. These should be addressed during one on one sessions. Similarly, announcements, schedule changes, and reminders should be sent by email or using team chat.Following this approach, which some companies are calling “meeting bankruptcy”, will reduce meeting overwhelm in your organisation, help you to coordinate your hybrid working schedule better, and improve team member engagement. 

Your team will thank you too, because the only meetings they’ll have to attend will be the important ones.

With the economy back in full swing after Covid, companies are finding new and innovative ways to define the way they work. A key component in getting back to the new normal is having an inspiring modern office space. Contact the  Commercial Space team today to view our range of premier properties in the Cape Peninsula.