5 Ways to Reduce Unnecessary Meetings
Have you ever attended a meeting that you felt was a complete waste of time? With in-person meetings, you might find yourself multitasking or tuning out. But that’s not as easy with virtual sessions, where managers often encourage team members to keep their cameras on. Zoom fatigue—the exhaustion from spending hours a day on video conference calls—is still prevalent as remote and hybrid work have become the norm. And the situation is only intensifying. According to Harvard Business Review, there were 60% more remote meetings per employee in 2022 compared to 2020. Even though the data shows that remote sessions are slightly decreasing in length, that’s still a lot for employees to manage.
Yet not all meetings are essential. A recent Otter.ai study found that almost a third of meetings are unnecessary, and it’s impacting the bottom line. For example, in a 100-person company, eliminating unnecessary meetings would save nearly $2.5M each year. For companies of 5,000, the savings rise to over $100M. One organization trying to change this is Shopify. The e-commerce company recently made headlines by canceling every recurring meeting with three or more people. Shopify’s chief operating officer and vice president of product Kaz Nejatian expects the new policies to remove approximately 10,000 events from employees’ calendars and, in turn, boost productivity.
While some companies take a top-down approach, others rely on their employees to decide which meetings are mission-critical versus optional. Here are five ways to reduce unnecessary meetings if you find yourself with a jam-packed calendar.
Convert meetings to an asynchronous format
Not every meeting needs to take place in person or via Zoom. Asynchronous meetings are a great way to connect if you can accomplish the same goals via email, chat or a document. Some examples are status updates, quick questions, or proposals that require feedback from multiple parties. On the other hand, if you’re ready to discuss a raise or promotion with your boss, then an in-person format is preferred.
Remove recurring meetings without an agenda
Recurring meetings lacking a clear purpose can be a drain on productivity. Often, these types of meetings start with a meaningful goal and slowly lose relevance over time. If the benefit of the meeting is uncertain, it’s probably best to remove it from your calendar.
Get comfortable declining unnecessary meetings
Just because you are invited to a meeting, that doesn’t mean you are required to attend. First, look at the topics being discussed. If you are only needed for the first 15 minutes, then let the organizer know that you will drop off after your part is finished. Or, if the agenda isn’t relevant to your area of expertise, politely decline.
Delegate unnecessary meetings
While a meeting may be unnecessary for you, it could benefit someone else. For example, if you find you are too senior for the meeting, nominate someone from your team to go instead. If you are too junior, recommend that your manager or another senior colleague represent your group.
Implement meeting-free times
More and more companies are adopting this philosophy to give employees time to work on their projects. Shopify, for example, is reinstating “meeting-free” Wednesdays and mandating that large meetings be held in a six-hour block on Thursdays. In addition, slack has “Focus Fridays,” where teams cancel internal meetings and are encouraged to turn off their notifications so they can work without interruptions. Based on their pilot program, 84% of Slack employees find Focus Fridays beneficial.
A certain number of meetings are a necessary evil and have always been part of a collaborative work culture. The key is ensuring every meeting has a laser-focused agenda, includes the essential participants and concludes with next steps and action items. Time is our most precious asset. Let’s ensure we are making the most of it!