Podcast, Remote work

Ep 87: How to reduce constant and back-to-back meetings to improve productivity with Shauna Moran

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Ep 87: How to reduce constant and back-to-back meetings to improve productivity with Shauna Moran

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Problem: How do we reduce constant and back-to-back meetings to improve productivity?

Research conducted by Monster indicates that 69% of the workforce is burnt out following the emergence of the pandemic.  You lose crucial time for strategic work when you schedule back-to-back meetings, such as one-on-ones, weekly, and monthly calls. How can you reduce these back-to-back meetings to increase productivity?

“There’s a difference between that surviving and thriving. Oftentimes when we look at how do we get a team from just surviving in a remote environment to truly thriving in a remote environment, we look at their communication.  So, what we’re solving today is how to reduce the need for constant meetings.”

How do you value time in your organization?

This episode aims to discuss how to reduce meetings, but we must first understand what our mindset is on time. Here are some questions we need to ask ourselves:

  • Do we value time? 
  • Do we measure the time we spend on projects?  
  • Do we value our time and each other’s time? 

When we learn to value time, we will see the difference in how we approach things. Taking time to prepare before the meeting, asking detailed questions, and improving how meetings are conducted are examples of signs that an individual or organization values time.

Here are the steps to reducing time spent on meetings:

Step #1: Give people time to observe and decide what works for them

You have a diverse team. Some people are extroverts, while others are introverts. When it comes to working and interacting with colleagues, these individuals have different dynamics and rhythms. The extrovert prefers endless meetings, whereas the introvert values uninterrupted time. When you let your team find its rhythm at work, they’ll be able to make compromises that work for everyone and themselves. As a result, everyone can build meaningful relationships with their co-workers.

“Now, people are so zoom fatigued, which is a new definition —everybody’s feeling overwhelmed with meetings. That’s because they’re so stressed and their nervous system is, really, shocked. They don’t have the energy, the time, or the desire to actually focus on building relationships with their colleagues in these calls.”

Step #2: Focus on collective goals

The end product has become an ever-increasing focus of companies, even before the pandemic. The nine-to-five schedule is becoming less and less relevant. The most important thing now is the end product gets completed by the date it’s supposed to. The pandemic challenges us to continue working in a way that meets our OKRs and KPIs. Consequently, conduct meetings and dedicate time only to projects that contribute to the team’s goals.  

“I suppose when we are working in this more flexible environment, which is happening right now, as organizations, we can push against it, or we start to embrace it.  The key is to focus as a company and as a team on the output. As opposed to the industrial revolution, where we’ve been focused on the nine to five.  That’s changing, and it’s changing quite fast. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that, I think people want more flexibility. Like that’s what the research is saying time and time again. It’s  the fact that they don’t want to go back to commuting two hours a day. Knowing I can do the job anywhere.”

Step # 3: Set a flexible time 

Set a time when all members can communicate at the same time. There are two ways in which teams can communicate. Take note of these pitfalls and avoid them to ensure you communicate efficiently.

  • Synchronous communications like Slack chats can be done at a window when people are not working deeply. Otherwise, constant pings can interrupt their workflow.
  • Writing should be the focus of asynchronous work, otherwise time will be lost responding to too many emails or project notes. Preparing for meetings should be done during this time as well.

“So, many companies that have transitioned to remote work, especially in the last 18 months, are very much leaning towards synchronous. So, that is the back-to-back meetings that they’re having all day, every day. You know the problem with that, your team is probably experiencing burnout because of that. They have no flexibility. They have no autonomy. They’re also not getting too deep work, creative work, strategic work, which is really going to move the needle within the business. And we also know that they’re probably overworking because if you’ve eight hours of meetings, you probably need to do another two hours at the end of the day to do the things from those meetings.”

Step #4: Create a template of the best practices

Identify and document the most efficient and effective meetings you’ve conducted. The way these meetings are conducted must be intentional. Make sure you include the people who will move the project forward. Filtering the agenda will allow the team to focus on the topics that will move them closer to their overall goals.

Here are a few pro-tips:

  • Try the pizza trick. If you need more than two boxes of pizzas, there are too many people in that meeting. 
  • Decide on days when you won’t have meetings, and the people won’t be distracted. A day when they can put their creative and strategic skills to use. 

Step # 5 Encourage vacations and leisure time

Rest increases productivity and improves creativity. Their brains are reset after a break from work. With so many places closed and people working where they live, taking a break becomes impossible. Teams are also guilty of creating cultures in which people are afraid to take a break for fear of losing their jobs or being fired. As a way to demonstrate their value to the team, people tend not to use their days off. Shauna stresses the importance of showing your team that you value them, by doing these things:

  • Build a culture that encourages taking a break. Respect their time-off. 
  • It’s also best to invest in their training. That way they know that you’re looking after their growth in the organization.

“When we’re working from home or isolated, we’re working in a high-paced environment that requires a lot of resilience. This is the result of it. We’re working in an environment that isn’t optimized for remote. It doesn’t place a value on time. So, we need to invest in our team.  We need to invest in, their training and their development. We need to follow suit on that, on the processes and the best practices that we create and have leadership team lead by example. I do have a guide on www.operateremote.com/burnout, which is really reflective.”

Resources about handling burnout:

Views on input and output at work: “So, it’s not about you being at your desk at 9:00 AM every day, and staying there for eight hours. It is about what you said that you would do on a Monday that you’ve completed by a Friday. So, it doesn’t matter what happened during the week,   whether you took two hours off every day to go to the gym. Or, you took some time off to look after your kid for an hour or two. That doesn’t matter. What matters is the output of that week.”

This interview is part of the How We Solve podcast. To hear more from industry experts who are solving everyday business problems, check us out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and on our website.

About the guest

Shauna Moran

Shauna Moran

Is a transformational coach for entrepreneurs, leaders, and teams of fast-growing distributed companies. As an executive and leadership development coach, she spent eight years researching and studying leadership and remote teams, and she applied what she learned in the real world.

How people can people reach the guest:

Website: Operate Remote

LinkedIn: Shauna Moran

Personal Twitter: @ShaunaMoran

Operate Remote Twitter: @OperateRemote

Operate Remote Instagram: operateremote

Email: info@operateremote.com

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