Fixing meetings to minimize length, unfocused discussion and unneeded participants is probably a better idea than banning meetings, says Steven Rogelberg, director of organizational science at the University of North Carolina. “You need to do the hard stuff — changing meetings and the ecosystem in which they sit so they’re more effective” Rogelberg says.
Victor Potrel hasn’t had a meeting in years. In 2019, when he began his executive role at digital-media company TheSoul Publishing working remotely from London, there were no lengthy inductions; all the information he needed was available via on-demand video. Nor did he need to block out hour-long calendar slots to liaise with his boss. Instead, he used Slack channels and software tools to get up to speed on various teams and ongoing projects.
To this day, there are no scheduled meetings at Potrel’s workplace. Rather, employees can book a direct one-on-one call with at least 24 hours’ notice in exceptional circumstances only. “It has to be a very specific goal, not a general brainstorm that you can do with other tools,” explains Potrel. “Most of the time, doing the preparatory work for a call makes you realise you don’t even need one.”
For Potrel, the stringent no-meeting policy has been liberating. “It’s improved my work,” he says. “It feels like you get to organise your own time, rather than have others do it for you. For creatives, it means you can focus on your own expertise and where you add value – and that’s not by discussing things in a meeting.”
Unlike Potrel, many workers spend large chunks of their day in conference rooms and on virtual calls. Much of that time is wasted. Before Covid-19, one survey of 1,945 workers by consulting firm Korn Ferry found that 67% of respondents felt that too many meetings harmed their impact at work, with 34% wasting up to five hours per week on pointless ones.