Quick question: Do you get excited when a meeting invite pops up on your calendar? I’m going to guess the answer is no. And yet frequent—sometimes even daily—meetings are a part of the culture in many companies.
I think, most of the time, staff meetings are a waste of time. Sure, I understand that all-hands get-togethers are necessary on occasion. But most of the time, there are other, more efficient ways to keep everyone in your company or your department up to speed on what’s going on in the office.
Here are four things to consider next time you’re thinking of planning a meeting.
1. Interruptions Are Productivity (and Potentially Profit) Killers
When I did some math and realized that a one-hour meeting with 17 people (the size of the staff at ShortStack, including our remote staff who join us via Google+ Hangouts) is really a 17-hour meeting, I immediately made a motion to reduce our staff meeting to every other week.
If you want some motivation to reduce the amount of time you and your staff spend in meetings, check out MeetingCalc. When you plug in the average salary of your team, plus the number of meeting attendees, and then see the cost of the time spent, chances are very good that you’ll make some changes, too. Consider that a one-hour meeting with 17 employees who make an average of $40,000 per year costs $232.88. If you’re meeting daily or even just a couple of times a week, that price adds up fast.
2. Instant Messaging is an Effective Way to Get Most News Out—Faster
At ShortStack, we use a messaging app called Slack. Everyone has his or her own account, which can be used for private communication between staff members, and then there are channels that include all members of certain departments.
For example, we have a “general” channel where news that affects everyone goes out; a “development” channel where members of the dev team, which includes some remote staff, share updates about technical changes, and a “support” channel for chatting about customer services issues.
And often, we use Slack instead of meetings. For instance, we recently re-designed our blog, and it was quite a big project. Some businesses may feel like it’s necessary to hold a meeting in order to make an announcement like this. However, this was a perfect time to use our “general” chat room. We put out the note that the new blog was up and running and suggested everyone check it out. If this were a larger change, say, a platform change that required a demo, we would have had a quick staff meeting. But since it was something that the whole team could check out on their own time, we opted to stick with the chat room.
(Oh, and we also have a “random” channel, where we share things that have nothing to do with work: stupid-human-tricks videos, important news about the state of Jay Z and Beyoncé’s marriage, and cat memes, of course.)
3. There Are Other Ways to Meet
A few members of the ShortStack development team take a walk together every afternoon at about 3 PM. Yes, technically they’re in a meeting, discussing the progress of the various projects they’re working on, but it feels different from a typical in-office meeting. I know that exercise gets my blood flowing and makes me think better, so I’m in full support of these afternoon walk-and-talks.
Plus, it’s not uncommon for the development team to be working on projects that don’t involve the rest of the office. Their afternoon walks are the perfect time for them to chat about those projects and have their own sort of “staff meeting” without using up all of the other employees’ time on something that may not affect or involve them.
I’ve also read the research that shows walking meetings increase creative thinking, something that everyone could use a little bit more of. And I’ve read that walking in a group makes people feel more cooperative since they’re all moving in the same direction, literally, as opposed to sitting around a table. (More on the benefits of walking meetings, here.)
4. Every Meeting Should be Planned With Productivity in Mind
There is a time and a place for larger staff meetings. But when that time comes, you should make sure to get the most out of the least amount of time by having an agenda and perhaps even clearly stated objectives. At ShortStack, our office assistant sends out an email a few days before our every-other-week meetings asking for agenda items. Then we have one person from each department give a quick—three minutes or so—update about what’s happening in content/PR, sales, customer support, development, and other departments. This is when I also give the “state of the business” update and make broad requests of my own. On most weeks, our staff meeting lasts about 40 minutes, max.
These meetings used to take place every week and last longer since every person gave his or her own update. Since we reduced the frequency and length, I’ve also noticed that we have more impromptu meetings among smaller groups. It seems to make the staff feel more empowered to get the important and timely things handled, and then they share updates at the bigger meeting.
I’m curious to know what you all think about meetings? Yes or no? Productive or a waste of time? If you’re not a fan, what do you do instead?