Could Banning Meetings Be the Key to a Happier Workforce?

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Employee job expectations have changed rapidly over the past two years. As we have seen since the Great Resignation, people are looking for purposeful roles, a better work-life balance and access to technology that allows them to do their job as efficiently as possible. This change has reduced the tolerance of wasting time and spending hours a day on video calls. In fact, 80% of American workers said they had attended a “useless” meeting at their current job.

Here we were very advanced in the match. As a company with a global workforce of 2,700 people, we were already accustomed to the challenges of managing equipment remotely, in different time zones. This coordination of schedules puts a sharper focus on the value of each meeting, especially when there is a risk of abusing employee time. To address this, at the end of 2019, we decided to formally ban e-mails and internal meetings.

Instead, we adopt asynchronous communications. It is a model where our workforce is empowered to work in the ways and at the times that are most conducive to their best results. This reduces “zoom fatigue” and allows employees to take control of their responsibilities in a way that suits their personal schedules.

Related: Why 2022 is about asynchronous communication

Deny time zones to create lasting links

Eliminating the need for real-time communications means less distractions and longer, uninterrupted time to produce and create. When employees are no longer restricted from working on specific time periods due to the need to overlap with colleagues, an environment can be created that promotes productivity and collaboration around the world.

Many companies are concerned that asynchronous communications will remove the human element from work experience. We haven’t found this to be a problem. Instead, teams are sought after on a personal level. Conversations on more informal platforms like Slack can be about team members ’weekend plans or outdated talks about the water cooler. But they are never forced to go to the same place at the same time. Asynchronous communications do not mean that computers do not communicate. Instead, moving collaboration to shared platforms allows all team members to create on their own terms. Instead of diminishing relationships between team members, it actually improves them, because they no longer depend on whether someone is free at 10:00 a.m. on a Tuesday for a regular project progress call.

Create a transparent workplace

Emails are a quick way to provide information, but they have many flaws. Above all, transparency depends entirely on whether the sender remembers “copying” the right people. How many times has a team member gone on vacation just to make their teammates realize in the middle of the week that they have no idea where a discussion is going?

Especially in a very remote environment, it is important to empower people to make autonomous decisions. But you can’t expect people to work as a team when they’re not all on the same page. By removing email and live meeting communications, and instead of sharing all relevant information on a platform that everyone has access to, you’ll ensure that all relevant information is available. This means that you do not waste time waiting for a colleague’s answer. It is now available to everyone.

Having a team that can work this way starts with hiring people with a flexible mindset and a desire to do things differently. Then you need to make sure that they understand this new way of thinking. The less standard the culture is, the deeper and longer your incorporation process must be. At TheSoul, new employees are taught to communicate with each other. There is a learning curve and time for new employees to digest it before immersing themselves in the work process. In short, we train against the very established and automatic will to hold a meeting to resolve issues.

Related: Why transparency between teams is so vital to production

Decide when a meeting is needed

Of course, it would be naive to think that a meeting is never required. Like any business, there are times when face-to-face communication is essential, either in person or through a screen. There are special cases where meetings can continue.

We have developed specific criteria for when to hold a meeting and how to organize it. First, the employee must try to solve the problem through our project management platforms. If this is not possible, they should draw up an agenda for the proposed meeting and schedule it at least 24 hours in advance, so as not to interrupt a colleague’s workflow and to be respectful of their work. time.

With that in mind, we also limit the number of people who have to participate. Our general rule is only two people and a maximum of 30 minutes. This really pushes the meeting host to focus on what needs to be accomplished. Each meeting is also followed up with detailed notes on the topics covered and shared with the wider team. For virtual meetings, we also keep the spirit of transparency alive by recording and publishing the session on the shared project management workflow.

It is perhaps not surprising that the need to follow such a structured process really discourages the convening of meetings, unless it is absolutely necessary.

A win-win situation

Having a diary full of meetings is a big cause for stress for many and is the antithesis of success at TheSoul. We don’t want people to take calls that have no tangible results. We want them to be able to focus on doing their job, within their working day, and allow them to create the head space to bring all their inspiration, creativity and experience to the role. We understand and agree that this policy will not work for everyone. That’s why we aim to hire agile learners who are comfortable with technology and can control their own workflows to meet deadlines effectively. If they possess these skills, they tend to adopt the standard and thrive in the improved work environment.

Related: 3 things we did that saved my company from the hell of meetings

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