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Meeting-Free Days Ahead?

As I noted in my recent post, “Meeting Mania: How to Get Control of Your Workday,” many workers face a big challenge in balancing meeting and non-meeting time — so much so that, odd as it may sound, meetings might even stand in the way of achieving the connected, collaborative workforce desired by so many corporate leaders.
Think about it. How many video meetings have you participated in where you could see participants clearly multitasking and not giving a speaker their full attention? And that’s just those people who have their cameras turned on. It’s a safe bet that meeting participants who haven’t turned on their cameras are more immersed in something other than listening to the discussion unfold.
In my Meeting Mania post, I shared the idea of the four-hour meeting week, as proposed by authors of the book “10X Culture: The 4-hour meeting week and 25 other secrets from innovative, fast-moving teams.” That essentially boils down to making sure nobody spends more than 10% of a standard 40-hour workweek in meetings. Seems reasonable enough, on paper at least.
This way or another, companies will need to address the meeting challenge that has become more prominent with such large portions of a workforce working from home these days. Consider this finding from Owl Labs’ fourth-annual “State of Remote Work 2020” survey conducted in partnership with Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), a future of work research firm: 80% of full-time workers said they’d like one day a week without any meetings.
Video meetings took a knock, too. Among the 2,025 full-time workers surveyed, 60% of respondents reported using video conferencing technology more so than they did prior to COVID-19. One in seven respondents agreed that they should be allowed to set aside one day a week as a video meeting-free zone, Owl Labs and GWA reported. (Although this seems a positive move, having no video meetings on a designated day might be more about convenience than productivity or any other factors. As Owl Labs and GWA wrote in their survey report, “People are looking for a break from having to clear out the space behind their home workstation or plan around family schedules to avoid kids in the background of team meetings.”)
Regardless, meeting-free days will become a remote work trend, they predict. And this trend might very well dovetail with another: that of having “core hours.” In the State of Remote Work 2020 survey, three-quarters of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the idea of having core hours: For example, “four hours a day where we’re available to colleagues and work on our own schedule the rest of the time.”
As a manager, I’ve been working to limit the number of meetings I set up for my team. Every half-hour I can give back to them is well worth it. Plus, we can (and do) chit-chat via a messaging channel for quick resolution of questions that pop up in between our formal meetings. Admittedly, this isn’t too difficult for me, since my team is small. But nobody should have an excuse for not trying to getting the meeting situation under control, especially since we’re in it for the long haul with remote work.