Focus: meeting-free days

Meeting-free days might be the first step in creating a high-performance hybrid workspace. We expect middle managers to be less the controller and more the enabler. Managing information workers means shaping the workplace with the team that allows the outcomes to be produced.

In the current economy, more and more workers are classified as information workers. This term refers to people whose jobs involve working with information, whether it be processing data, researching new technologies, or writing reports. Because of the nature of their work, information workers need time to do their focus work, which requires attention and concentration. Unfortunately, many employers do not understand this need and instead expect information workers to be able to multi-task and handle interruptions. This can lead to frustration and decreased productivity. 

Async work

In an async-first work organization (I talk about this at length in The Suitcase Office), we first seek to identify the tasks and outcomes that autonomous employees can perform by controlling their own time.  

Freeing time for focus work and giving employees control over their schedules is a core element in allowing our information workers to produce high-quality outcomes. 

Meeting-free days

In today’s fast-paced business world, it’s not uncommon for workers to feel like they’re constantly attending meetings. While meetings can be a valuable way to collaborate with colleagues, they can also be a time-suck that interrupts workers’ workflow and prevents them from completing their most important tasks. 

For many organizations, creating an async-first mindset is the way to go. And in the easiest first step to help our teams regain control of their schedules and allow them to plan their work better is to create oases of space in their programs. 

More and more companies are adopting meeting-free days: workers are encouraged to take care of their projects without attending (group-) meetings. On meeting-free days, workers can focus intensely on their work without distractions from colleagues. As a result, they can get more done in less time and feel less stressed about their workload. 

Some companies I work with keep the meeting-free days internal only, while others ask their outside sales teams not to schedule client meetings on those days. As always, there’s no one-size-fits-all here. 

Meeting-free days can also boost morale by giving workers a sense of autonomy and control over their day. Companies that embrace meeting-free days may have a distinct advantage in an increasingly competitive business landscape.

While we’re at that point, let’s kill most recurring meetings now.

You’re not alone if you’ve ever been in a meeting that felt like it was going nowhere. Recurring meetings are often (rightfully) blamed for low productivity. The problem is that when meetings become regular, they can lose their purpose and become an exercise in going through the motions. This can make participants feel disconnected from the discussion and unengaged with the topic. Additionally, recurring meetings can create a sense of complacency, preventing people from speaking up and challenging ideas. Ultimately, this can lead to stagnation and a lack of progress. 

While some recurring meetings, such as standups or check-ins, might have value, we should eliminate the dictatorship that the recurring meeting brings. And if they’re still on your schedule, check at the end of every occurrence if you’re still achieving the set objectives. If you’re not: it may be time to rethink the format or frequency of the gathering. You may be wasting valuable time that could be better spent elsewhere.

As with everything in organizing the new workplace, there are more solutions than meeting-free days. And while they might work for most employees, we might find that this is a struggle for some. Crafting the new workplace requires checking in with our teams, seeing what works and what does not, and adjusting our work organization accordingly. 

The hybrid world we operate in is hybrid to go from an old to a new situation, so the only constant is change.  

This post is also available in: Dutch French

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