The Science and Fiction of Meetings report raises several key productivity statistics in the workplace, such as the following:
Senior managers spend an estimated 23 hours a week in meetings.
That’s the equivalent of almost three full work days spent sitting around a table discussing various issues with coworkers and employees.
It’s not a stretch to claim that with the right workforce optimization solutions, like software for employee monitoring, some of this time could be better allocated elsewhere.
Introducing ‘no meeting days’ - a convenient way to cut down on work about work and free everyone up to focus on deep work.
What are the Benefits of No-Meeting Days?
No-meeting days can provide you and your team with a rare opportunity to focus on high-priority tasks without interruption throughout the day.
Think of it like this:
The typical work day is like a bus that stops in 10 or more locations on the way to its destination, scarcely giving you time to focus for more than a few minutes on what you’re doing.
A no-meeting day, by contrast, is like a bus that goes directly to the destination, which means you have all the time in the world to read a book, listen to a podcast, or enter a flow state with your work.
Create Space for Deep Work
If you have even just one no-meeting day per week, imagine how much more you and your team could get done.
Given that even just a slight distraction is enough to throw us off our game in the workplace, a period of uninterrupted time is not only a rarity but essential for focusing on deep work activities - those which require our full focus.
When we have meetings staggered throughout the day, it isn’t just the meeting itself that potentially causes lost productivity - it’s the time spent thinking about it.
As the Zeigarnik Effect shows, employees can be bombarded with intrusive thoughts if they leave a task unfinished as they jump to the next. If the meeting comes at an inopportune moment for an employee, this can create anxiety, inhibiting their ability to focus on deep work and making information retention in the meeting itself more challenging.
If you carry out regular performance monitoring in the workplace, you’ll likely see this in the data, so using web monitoring tools is a great idea for tracking the impact meetings have on productivity.
Eliminate Meeting Amnesia
On the topic of meetings and what employees retain from them, there’s a common psychological phenomenon that takes place called meeting amnesia. This is the tendency to forget the important information from a meeting that an employee just attended largely because of their monotonous nature.
This phenomenon raises two key questions:
- If information retention from meetings is low, are they really the best way to relay information?
- If retention is low due to the monotonous nature of meetings, surely the best solution is to reduce the monotony by having fewer meetings throughout the work week?
Both of these questions point to the fact that no-meeting days could not only improve productivity among employees but also increase information retention for future meetings.
If you have a situation at work where everyone feels as if one meeting merges with the next, then it becomes hard to single out relevant details from individual meetings. Introducing a no-meeting day practice can challenge you and your team members to think critically about the way you currently hold meetings, so you can improve them going forward.
Inspire Creative Solutions
Sometimes meetings can be creativity-killers.
If an employee knows that they have a meeting in 30 minutes, it becomes incredibly challenging to enter into a flow state with work. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of the critically-acclaimed book ‘Flow,’ a flow state is an optimal way to work where you lose track of time and get lost in the current activity.
Flow state is what happens when athletes at the top of their game hit their stride in high tension, or scientists work for hours on end sensing they’re close to a breakthrough. It’s a balance of having work that’s challenging yet not so difficult that you want to give up.
Here’s the catch: we have no hope of trying to enter a flow state when we’re conscious of time. That’s what makes meetings a creativity-killer; they inhibit employees’ ability to engage in deep work for long enough to enter flow and reach creative insights.
How to Implement No-Meeting Days
You’ve reached this point, and if you're still with us, there’s a strong chance you’re considering implementing no-meeting days at your workplace. However, it isn’t simply a case of speaking them into existence and living a happier, more productive existence at work.
In order to implement no-meeting days successfully, here’s what you’ll need to do:
1. Choose the Best Day for Your Team
None of the benefits of no-meeting days will apply if you adopt a random approach to implementing them. For example, say you designate Wednesday as the no-meeting day from now on, but after talking with your team you discover that it’s the day when most team members require direction.
The easiest way around logistics issues is to - you guessed it - call a meeting with your team.
In this meeting about what day you won’t have a meeting, be sure to discuss the following:
- Which day do you feel most energized or motivated to work on projects?
- Which current meetings are too important to move around?
- Are there time zone considerations to take into account? (if some employees work remotely)
2. Discuss Underlying Productivity Issues
No-meeting days aren’t a quick-fix solution to deep-rooted productivity problems.
As a result, it’s important to go around the room with your team and ascertain what the biggest obstacles are for individual and team productivity. Combined with data you derive from computer tracking software or monitoring tools, this meeting should inform you as to the bigger picture of productivity issues.
If meetings come up as a common distraction and detract team members from important work, then it could be that no-meeting days provide an instant impact.
However, if there are other issues at play, such as ineffective communication systems or a lack of training resources, then these need to be addressed too to justify implementing no-meeting days.
3. Think About the Long-term
No-meeting days don’t have to mean that you’re eventually going to have fewer overall meetings or faze them out altogether. You should use the information you gather from having no-meeting days to inform future discussions about how you hold meetings.
Consider using activity monitoring tools like Insightful to get a clear idea of how much time teams are spending in meetings and how it affects their productivity baselines.
You can do a before-and-after experiment whereby you gauge current productivity levels with meetings every day, and then implement one no-meeting day a week and measure the impact.
Using a tool like Insightful to monitor employees can give you a definitive answer so you’re not just left guessing whether no-meeting days are worth implementing. An app for tracking work hours, Insightful provides you with ample opportunity to reflect on meeting efficacy and make changes.
With screenshot monitoring, you can make sure work time is accounted for, and team members don’t succumb to idle time when there are tasks they could be working on.