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WorkSpace Wednesday: End the Meeting Madness


Illustration of meeting scheduling
Image: Hurca! -
We’re three weeks into 2021, and chances are pretty good that work calendars have filled up fast between regularly scheduled and one-off meetings. “Meeting mayhem,” as UC consultant Denise Munro writes on our sister site, WorkSpace Connect, has been a bane of the remote work experience foisted on us by the office shutdown.
In her WorkSpace Connect post, Munro shared an extreme example of just how out of hand virtual meetings can get. She told of a friend who found himself so overbooked that he would simultaneously need to attend a Microsoft Teams call on his laptop, a Zoom call on his iPad, and another call on his wireless phone. And this wasn’t occasionally, but daily. Nor was this his problem alone, but rather the experience of other managers at his company, as well.
Needless to say, he reported not being able to participate effectively in any of these overlapping meetings or to work on assigned tasks with meeting overload, Munro reported.
Fortunately, the company has since implemented guidance on how to schedule and conduct meetings. Additionally, the management team has asked employees to use their time more efficiently. Perhaps this came a bit belatedly, but any organization that hasn’t taken time to address meeting overload would be well-advised to do so; burnout is a real concern, as discussed in the WorkSpace Connect post, “Burnout Bust: Making Employee Experience a 2021 Priority.”
In her post, Munro shared three tips for helping employees work through the challenge of meeting overload. In a nutshell, they are:
  1. Set workday expectations — “Talk with an employee to create a work plan that fits their position and workstyle. By understanding and setting expectations, staff and management can collaborate on meeting company goals and prevent employee burnout,” she advised.
  2. Set meeting management guidelines — Meeting hosts need to identify who and how many team members to invite to a meeting, understanding that the greater the number of participants, the more prolonged the decision making is likely to be. “Guide organizers to first consider the goal of the meeting. Is it to report? Negotiate? Collaborate? Get approval? Encourage them to set a specific agenda, set goals for the meeting, and honor each attendee’s time,” Munro suggested.
  3. Take the human toll into account — Virtual meetings can make participants feel somewhat invisible in terms of work expectations vs. home-life expectations that inevitably creep into the workday. “Cutting employees some slack will go a long way in their job satisfaction, loyalty, and initiative in the workplace,” Munro said.
While getting meetings under control doesn’t fall on IT’s shoulders (unless an IT manager is at fault for team meeting overload), IT should have the ability to scoop out meeting metrics and share them with HR and other workforce strategists. These metrics can help understand the impact of remote work and virtual meetings on the employee psyche. Anecdotes like the one Munro share are great, but numbers can show the big picture at a glance.