Banning Meetings isn’t the Answer to Improved Productivity

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Management teams are always looking for creative ways to bring that figure down, or, at the very least, make sure meetings are as efficient and productive as possible. One of the more controversial policies, which is being adopted more and more frequently, is cancelling meetings altogether.

Global ecommerce company Shopify has been latest to announce its plans to curb time wasting in meetings, by cancelling all recurring meetings with more than two people. The Canadian business has also banned all meetings on Wednesday and is encouraging staff to decline meeting invites that aren’t valuable.

Shopify isn’t the only large tech business to implement such drastic policies. Facebook has “no-meeting Wednesdays” while Amazon introduced the two-pizza rule, where all meetings should be small enough that participants can be fed with two pizzas.

On the one hand, it makes absolute sense from both a commercial and employee wellbeing perspective that companies are taking action and streamlining meetings. After all, this trend is a direct consequence of the pandemic, when video calls became the norm and one of the most popular ways of conversing with colleagues. Companies are only trying to find their feet again in a post-lockdown world. However, banning meetings is not the solution. Here’s why.

The rise of home working

Unlike pre-pandemic days, a staggering number of employees now work from home – both by choice and also as a result of employers instructing staff to hybrid work. The latest UK Census found that a quarter (24%) of people hybrid work, while one in seven (14%) work from home exclusively. However, some employees don’t have the technology tools at home to be able to be an active and collaborative member within the meeting, and end up being a non-active participant. But banning these workers from meetings on a particular day of the week neither supports productivity nor encourages engagement with colleagues or external people. While it’s right that staff should have the time to focus on their work, it shouldn’t be at the detriment of their own wellbeing or workplace enjoyment.

To add to that, some of the best ideas can come during less formal meetings with colleagues. Removing that space to be creative or forcing virtual meetings to be held on certain days, with a select number of people, could significantly dent a company’s progress and achievements if ideas and suggestions aren’t given a place to be created or heard.

Are we alienating our junior staff?

Almost every successful business has a career development programme that supports the most junior members of staff, and rightly so. Investing in the learning and progression of junior colleagues is proven to improve employee loyalty and subsequently deliver long-term benefits to organisations. One way of building that loyalty is creating a space where junior members of the team feel empowered to speak informally with colleagues and senior members of the team.

As previously mentioned, however, a large proportion of us now work from home. Introducing policies that effectively ban these informal meetings creates a culture where junior members of the team may not feel as though they can ask for calls with their colleagues. Building up the confidence of team members from an early stage in their career is critical for progression – alienating them from the outset will only give businesses more work to do in the long-term to help them find that confidence in other ways.

Building a culture

Poor workplace culture results in poor employee wellbeing and retention. There are a lot of factors that influence workplace culture – and I am in no way saying that Monday morning meetings contribute towards it. However, culture is created, in part, by people from different teams interacting and building relationships, which is often facilitated by workplace meetings. By removing the meetings where those friendships are forged, business leaders are directly impacting how their culture is formed.

Unfit technology

The vast majority of businesses that have opted to cancel meetings have put it down to one thing – productivity. While there is no doubt significant time can be wasted in meetings if they’re poorly run or are unorganised, there are ways around it that don’t need to result in banning them altogether. This is something that SMART Technologies and our collaboration software TeamWorks has helped many customers with.

Since the pandemic, a large number of businesses have relied on one or two of the major collaboration tool providers that are on the market, without truly assessing whether their features are right for their business. But having collaboration software that is customisable to each organisation, has added tools like screen sharing, whiteboard features, screencast capabilities, can all help towards making sure a business meeting is as effective as possible. The ability to add files to meetings and displays can also significantly reduce downtime. These are just some of the benefits that TeamWorks can provide.

It’s all too easy in business to scrap something altogether than invest the time and energy into finding ways of doing it better. Banning workplace meetings is a prime example of that. At a time where we have more technical ability at our fingertips than ever to encourage productive meetings, we should be harnessing it – not scrapping it.

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