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How to avoid (meaningless) meetings at work?

How to avoid (meaningless) meetings at work?

According to a recent survey by Steven Rogelberg (a professor of organizational science, psychology, and management), companies lose $100M in useless meetings, and each employee spends 18 hrs per week in meetings.

I’ve been working remotely for the last 3 years and agree with this assessment. Microsoft found remote workers are scheduling more 30-minute meetings than they ever had before. People first prioritize booking a meeting before providing more context/information.

And research shows excessive meetings decrease employee productivity, happiness, and work satisfaction. It also wastes time and shows a lack of consideration for others’ time.

3 ways you can avoid (meaningless) meetings and the ones you should attend:

1. Educate your colleagues on when to use meetings

We aren’t saying you should reject every meeting. But you can (and must) avoid the ones which can be communicated via email or chat. This will only happen when your colleagues know when to use asynchronous communication (email and chat) and when to schedule a meeting. It’s therefore critical to have a strict criterion on when you need a meeting.

Here’s a helpful guide:

Create a similar meeting decision tree. Distribute it across your team. Ask your employees to schedule meetings only if it passes the above filters.

2. Be direct and assertive

Even after educating your employees, there will be instances when they might think a discussion needs face-to-face interaction (but you might think otherwise). Instead of scolding or shaming, learn to say no politely.

For example, you could say something like, "Thank you for the invitation, but I don't think this meeting is necessary. I have other priorities that I need to focus on at the moment." Explain why you think it’s unnecessary and your priorities, and walk them through other solutions.

This will help the person who invited you to understand your perspective and may prevent them from scheduling similar meetings in the future.

If you don’t attend a meeting, provide them with what they need via email or chat. And even if this isn’t possible, connect them with people that can help them.

3. Follow-up

After declining the invitation, you must follow up with the person who invited you to the remote meeting. It will ensure that they understand your decision and that any crucial information is shared with you differently.

The kinds of meetings you should attend

Not all meetings are meaningless. Some are even important and necessary to build long-term success. Here are the two tips to help you decide which meetings you should agree to:

a) As a thumb rule, attend every meeting in which the topic is urgent and complex—which demands face-to-face interactions to avoid chaos and get to solutions faster. It could be company strategy planning, addressing sensitive topics, etc.

b) Host meetings to improve the relationship with your colleagues. As a manager, you should host 1:1s to provide feedback (positive and negative), team bonding sessions, monthly reviews, and more.