Work is changing. Where do meetings fit into the new hybrid reality? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • There’s no question that many of us spend too much time in meetings—and struggle to fit actual work into the slivers of time between them.
  • But meetings aren’t all bad. At their best, they’re “a platform for people to investigate issues, explore new avenues, and agree on actions.”
  • Unfortunately, the sudden emergence of remote and hybrid working models has complicated things—and made this ideal state feel more elusive than ever.
  • These changes have also led to—wait for it—more meetings than ever. A recent study from Microsoft found that weekly meeting time has increased to 2.5X pre-pandemic levels.
  • So what’s a modern leader to do? First, recognize that many of the underlying issues with meetings are timeless and not related to current circumstances.
  • These age-old challenges include Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, which states that “the amount of time spent discussing an issue in an organization is inversely correlated to its actual importance”.
  • Other perennial pitfalls include meeting FOMO and the misguided use of meetings as commitment devices.
  • Of course, not all of the challenges are perennial. You don’t get a 2.5X jump in meeting volume for nothing.
  • Our own Peter Petralia offers this insight: “When feeling insecure or disconnected while working remotely, many of us try to re-create behaviours from the office. One of these is meetings. Scheduling meetings is way to create continuity with how things used to be.”
  • The good news: Microsoft’s findings weren’t all bad. Overall meeting time is up, yes. But meetings are also getting shorter. They’re starting later on Mondays and stopping earlier on Fridays. And less of them are happening over the noon hour.
  • In other words, meeting culture is changing to suit hybrid conditions—for good and ill. Your job as a leader is to dodge the dangers and steer things towards the positive.
  • If you’re looking for guidance, there’s plenty of it out there. Google have some solid tips to share. Our favourite: “Encourage your team to add working hours, location and focus time into their calendars.”
  • We’re also big fans of the the Three P’s Framework. It’s all about trimming away the fat by defining a clear Purpose, Process and Product (outcome) for every meeting.
  • It’s probably a good ideas to define some rules of etiquette around hybrid meetings to set expectations and remove ambiguity. Defining these rules is a great opportunity to involve your team in defining the new status quo.
  • We also really like Ashok Krish’s concept of “working out loud“—communicating proactively about what’s being done and how it’s going.
  • Work as whole will never return to pre-pandemic norms. But with some diligence and determination it should be possible to pull your team’s meeting-hours-per-week back to 2019 levels—and create some healthy new norms.
  • If reading this has inspired you to get started on some changes, here’s a final tip: don’t start by calling a meeting. 😀
Issue #139
Mar 27, 2022

Further Reading