Workplace Tips: No-Meeting Days Are Critical to Prevent Employee Burnout

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By Gaurang Sinha

Love them or not, meetings do take up a large piece of what we call work time. It’s how we discuss our plan of action, chalk out ideas, share updates, brainstorm on projects, and get things done. Yet many business leaders consider meetings as a necessary evil and it’s easy to understand why—we meet too often.

Well, overcoming the “let’s get everyone together in a meeting room” instinct can be problematic for experienced leaders and new managers.

This, however, results in employees getting little to zero flow time, projects always seem to get put off, and ultimately team productivity suffers.

On an average, an employee attends 62 meetings each month, spending a full-fifth of their work hours in meetings that are unproductive at best.

At higher management levels, it gets worse—middle managers and senior leadership spend anywhere between 35-50% of their time in attending meetings. Instead of being an engine of productivity, one in two business meetings is considered a waste of time.

To be honest, we cannot get rid of all business meetings—they do often help us work together, take collective and quick action, and get things done—but we can and must be selective about the ones we host, which allows better and fruitful meetings being accomplished.

Further, implementing measures like no-meeting days as seen in businesses as diverse as Facebook, Asana, and Okta, can help cut down on unproductive meetings, which obviously ends up saving a lot of time and gives employees back their time to focus on doing actual work that needs  more attention.

What is a no-meeting day?

A no-meeting day is a day for focused work. It’s essentially one day each week with no meetings at all, so the team can focus on completing crucial tasks. It can be any day of the week.

Irrespective, every employee knows not to schedule meetings on a no-meeting day, unless absolutely necessary—so every employee at every level gets uninterrupted time to do their best work.

Advantages of implementing no-meeting days: 

  • Aids employees in staying focused without interruptions
  • Work flow is not hampered, so productivity levels go up
  • Allows everyone, managers included, to be “doers”
  • Increases employee engagement during meetings

Aids employees in staying focused without interruptions

Unproductive meetings are noticeably a waste of time, but each of these meetings also interrupt your employees’ “flow” at work and eats up additional work hours. Even if it’s an insanely productive 30-minute meeting, it takes people another few minutes to get back into the groove.

A few such meetings every working day and before you know it, half the workday is already gone!

With no meetings, your team enjoys an uninterrupted work zone that is perfect to complete tasks and work on bigger projects that keep getting pushed aside.

Work flow is not hampered, so productivity levels go up

When people do what they love without distractions, they enter a ‘state of flow’ that leads to amazing outputs. Without meetings interrupting (constantly in some cases) the workday, employees can complete more tasks off their to-do lists and be more productive.

Or they can work through more complex, time-consuming tasks on no-meeting days and tick off smaller, more manageable tasks the rest of the week.

Allows everyone, managers included, to tick off tasks

Most managers are used to schedule-driven days, spending about 35% of their work hours in meetings. Executing a no-meeting day across the business gives everyone, including managers, more opportunities for focused work.

Increases employee engagement during meetings

Multiple meetings kill not just productivity but also engagement. About 73% of employees admit to doing other work in meetings. Abolishing meetings for a day actually makes it easier to schedule meetings during the rest of the week, since all your employee schedules are in complete sync.

Additionally, it increases employee engagement because your people are less stressed and better prepared for these scheduled meetings.

How to implement no-meeting days

  • Get buy-ins from your team
  • Mutually agree on a day of the week
  • Clean up your calendar
  • Communicate and encourage

Once you and your team are convinced that less is more, at least when it comes to meetings, here’s how you can get started with no-meeting days and seep them into your team/office culture.

1.Get buy-ins from your team

Present your no-meeting day proposal and ask for everyone’s feedback. Individual contributors will be an easy sell, everyone loves more time for focused work. For managers—explain how a no-meeting day gives them time to dig into their never-ending to-do lists and lets them finish actual tasks on time.

2.Mutually agree on a day of the week

Getting everyone to agree on a no-meeting day can be a little tough. Conduct a company-wide survey to identify what works for everyone (or majority of the people).

3.Clean up your calendar

Cancel meetings that do not add value. Reschedule townhalls, team check-ins, and 1:1s to other days of the week. Work with team leaders or managers to ensure this action is repeated throughout the business for every employee’s calendar.

4.Communicate and encourage

It is extremely crucial that every employee knows what to expect from no-meeting days and the benefits you’re hoping to achieve.

Ensure that you set the right expectations, not only in terms of meetings but also about how employees can make  optimal use of such days.

Sometimes it might be essential to schedule a meeting on a no-meeting day, so clearly set that expectation upfront.

If you see meetings scheduled on a designated no-meeting day, encourage your team to move them and reiterate how no-meeting days benefit not just a particular employee or a single team, but the business as a whole.

Lastly the most important factor, stay flexible and open to trying new ways to make no-meeting days fit into your team schedule. And often, poll your team for feedback on making your meetings more efficient and effective.

(The author is Director, Go-to-market Strategy at Flock – a team communication app and online collaboration platform.)


 

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