Can We Please Stop Having So Many Damn Meetings?
It's a big problem for working parents.
Free us from the headache of interminable meetings.
In my 15 years in journalism, there’s one thing all of my worst jobs have had in common: too many meetings that could have been emails.
Pointless, meandering meetings are even more excruciating when you’re a parent. Who wants to miss a milestone just to watch their colleagues jockey for attention?
Unfortunately, it’s only getting worse.
“People have 250 percent more meetings every day than they did before the pandemic,” Mary Czerwinski, the research manager of the Human Understanding and Empathy group at Microsoft, told The Atlantic. “That means everything else—like coding and email and writing—is being pushed later.”
A recent study by Microsoft reveals a new “peak” in workplace productivity has emerged late in the evening. By tracking when people sent emails or engaged with productivity applications on a work computer, Microsoft found that thirty percent of people were working almost as much at 10 p.m. as they were at 8 a.m.
Some of that is attributable to the flexibility of working from home. Coincidentally, I’m currently writing this newsletter at 10 p.m., since I spent my daytime hours putting out small fires on the home front. But the workday has also gotten longer because employees jump from one Zoom call to another and have no time to do the tasks they are actually paid to accomplish.
It’s a prime example of how companies' words and actions don’t always align. While many corporate leaders have expressed a desire for greater workplace flexibility and have increased their company’s benefits aimed at boosting employee wellbeing, they haven’t tamped down on a meeting culture that’s a major contributor to burnout.
And it’s a big problem for parents. The flexibility afforded by remote work is rendered moot when we’re stuck in video calls all day, and it’s much harder to shift our work to the evenings when we’re shepherding our kids through their bedtime routine. If companies genuinely care about retaining their parent employees, they must put an end to the tyranny of incessant meetings.
Alphabet, Facebook, and Atlassian are just a few of the big names that have implemented “no meeting” days to give their employees more time for tackling tasks (or simply a break).
A recent study recapped in the MIT Sloan Management Review found that when companies implemented at least one meeting-free day, employees reported improvements in factors like autonomy, communication, cooperation, engagement, productivity and satisfaction, as well as decreases in stress and micromanagement. The authors concluded that the sweet spot is three meeting-free days a week. Beyond that, the benefits of nixing meetings begin to wane, since they’re good for “maintaining social connections and managing weekly schedules.”
Given the growing number of digital tools for communication, like Slack, and for project management, like Asana and Notion, it simply makes no sense that meetings are spiking. In addition to offering no-meeting days, companies should track the overall number of meetings in each department, so they can identify the culprits contributing to meeting inflation—and nip it in the bud by encouraging the use of digital tools, instead.
Managers, free us from Zoom fatigue. We’re begging you.
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This newsletter was written by Audrey Goodson Kingo, Editor in Chief at Mother Honestly. Please send feedback, ideas and suggestions (or just say hello!) to me at email@example.com. And if you found this newsletter helpful, please share with a friend: