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WorkSpace Wednesday: Mind Over Meeting

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Businessman dealing with meeting mania
Image: Nataliya Kalabina - stock.adobe.com
Meeting overload isn’t a new problem, but WFH has exacerbated the situation now that attending a meeting for most people only requires clicking to launch rather than getting up from a desk and moving to a conference room, whether down the hall or across the corporate campus. While once you might have begrudgingly trudged from one meeting to the next, today you might relish the thought of meeting in person — once or three dozen times a week.
 
I’ve been mulling over the meeting conundrum in a couple of blogs posted on our sister site, WorkSpace Connect. On the one hand, I wrote in “Meetings Got You Down?,” the virtual meetings that fill our WFH workdays allow us the opportunity to keep in touch with and “see” team members and external parties despite being physically separated. On the other hand, too many meetings can kill productivity on other projects while being highly unproductive — and of little value – themselves. And here’s another thing: Lots of people have a love-hate relationship with meetings.
 
Steven Rogelberg, a business professor and author of “The Surprise Science of Meetings,” spoke to the “folly of the remote meeting” in a podcast interview when his book published last year. As I shared in my WorkSpace Connect post, he said: “When we ask people, ‘What is the most dysfunctional meeting type?’ Everyone says, ‘remote meeting.’ Then we say to them, ‘What meeting type do you most prefer?’ They say, ‘remote meeting,’ because they can just blend into the background and multitask.” That’s just what every meeting host wants to hear.
 
Hard as it might be to admit, meetings are often a poor use, if not an utter waste, of time — if not for every meeting participant, then at least some of them. Figuring out how to meet smarter and reduce meeting fatigue is top of the agenda for any number of legacy and startup meeting software providers. On WorkSpace Connect, I introduced readers to Hugo, an example of the latter that came to market two years ago with meeting notes software aimed at addressing four longstanding problems with meetings:
 
  1. Everybody has to be in the same physical or virtual room and take their own notes
  2. Value dissipates as people drop out
  3. Action items often fall through the cracks
  4. Innovation in workflow is lacking
The meetings note tool that Hugo offers today is a hack implemented to solve its own problems relative to meetings, Chait said. The tool allows for centralized actionable notetaking, with notes then connected to work apps, he described. “We surface the insights at the right time and connect to all the other bits of software that you’re using to push all the actions and insights to everyone else,” he told me.
 
As I explain in my post, by “everyone else,” Chait means people who need to know what transpired during a meeting but don’t need to devote the time to attend it. Hugo, which has venture backing from the Slack Fund and Google’s AI-focused investment arm, espouses the idea that people can take control of the time spent in meetings by asking themselves this simple question before clicking “Accept” on a meeting invite: Do I need to go to the meeting for discussion, debate, or decision making?” If that’s a “no, no, no,” then you don’t need to be in the room. You can gain more value by spending your time productively and reviewing meeting notes asynchronously, say from within a team Slack channel.
 
Besides incorporating its ideas into the Hugo app, company cofounders have built up a culture around better meetings. For more on its approach to solving the meeting overload challenge internally, see my WorkSpace Connect post, “Meeting Mania: How to Get Control of Your Workday.”

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