Why should your company have a no meetings day?
It happens far too often. You get to the office with a coffee in hand, set to tackle the mountain of tasks on your to-do list. Instead, you’re greeted by an ominous pop-up in the corner of your screen: “Marketing team brainstorming in 10 minutes.” Damn.
And on it goes. Meetings, stand-ups, catch-ups, interviews and overviews woven together into a jam-packed calendar. It’s impossible to find even 30 minutes to sit down and focus on a single project.
And when you really do need to discuss something with someone? You guessed it: not a single corresponding gap in your calendars. And even if you’re lucky enough to find an opening, you can bet that every meeting room in the office will be booked.
Why can’t you do your work while you’re at work?
This was becoming an issue at Typeform HQ. People were resorting to booking meetings with themselves just to block out time in their calendars when they wouldn’t be disturbed. Employees had less time to focus on big projects, and getting into the zone was nearly impossible amid all the usual distractions.
“We had a busy schedule, and no time for focusing on ideas, innovating, or even having proper time to talk to each other.” —Vaida, recruiter from POPs (People Operations)
And on top of all the meetings, there was that 15 or 30 minutes “dead time” as employees finished one meeting and waited for the next to begin. Studies say that it takes the average person 25 minutes to regain focus after being disrupted, so it’s not surprising that these periods were often spent grabbing a coffee at the barception.
‘‘I was trying to squeeze all my work into spaces less than an hour long.” —Eric, writer
It seemed that when people weren’t actually in meetings, they were thinking about their next one!
My calendar is too full. Is there a workaround?
In any company, it’s important to identify if there’s an underlying issue that’s limiting productivity. And as a CEO, how do you get effective, actionable points on what’s irritating your employees? Easy, you ask them.
Here’s Georgina, head of POPs, on the process:
“An internal operations typeform was sent around to everyone on the team, with lots of questions about meetings. Feedback was taken on board, and a few weeks later it was announced in our bi-weekly company meeting that Wednesday would now officially be No Meetings Day.”
At the same time, Typeform CEO and Cofounder Robert Munoz added that meetings shouldn’t be mandatory and that people should leave a meeting if they don’t feel like they’re adding anything.
But how do you go about actually implementing a No Meetings Day? Block out your calendar? Lock up all the meeting rooms? When actioning an initiative based on employee feedback, it’s easier than you think.
More from Vaida:
“It was really organic and natural. It’s up to people themselves to respect it. In reality, No Meetings Day became the perfect tool to allow individual employees to finally say no to unnecessary meetings.”
Create a window for focus
“It’s my most productive day, for sure.” —Keysa, People Operations coordinator.
At Typeform, No Meetings Day gave employees a window to focus. Without meetings to attend, people could spend more time on projects that often require full concentration. For some, Wednesday is now the official day to get stuff done.
Yet there’s no escaping logic, and in the same way that shifting the clutter from your desk into your drawer doesn’t make it disappear altogether, moving a meeting from one day meant fitting it in somewhere else.
For some, Tuesday or Thursday became “jam-packed-full-of-meetings day.” For others, the boundaries of what exactly defined a meeting became a little more blurred.
“Sometimes a meeting that is needed on a Wednesday is called a ‘workshop’ instead. Which is cheeky, but I like it.” —Simon, QA engineer.
People found workarounds. ‘‘Brainstorming sessions” or “working groups” started popping up on Wednesdays. But was this a bad thing? Not necessarily. After all, rules should be flexible around necessity, and this allowed employees to tailor their No Meeting Day to a format that fit their teams and themselves.
Add a human touch for No Meetings Day
In the end, No Meetings Day boiled down to giving employees an open-ended concept that they could adapt to their needs. It wasn’t a case of implementing a concrete rule, it was more about making that rule personal and natural.
And when it was up to individuals to respect it, a few side effects began to surface that were less about personal productivity and more about office atmosphere.
“No Meetings Day helped make people more aware of their colleagues’ time, and to think twice about whether a meeting really needs to take place or not. I now have time to be more approachable and can have spontaneous chats. I’ve sensed that the energy is different.” —Keysa
The space left void by fewer meetings gave people time to be just a little bit more, well, human.
Key takeaways when considering a No Meetings Day
Are people in your office blocking out calendar time for themselves? Could a No Meetings Day work for you? Try these key takeaways to help you implement a similar concept in your office.
- If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Make like Typeform and send an Internal Operations Survey to find out whether your employees are being dragged down by too many meetings.
- Encourage employees to schedule meetings efficiently and avoid “dead time” in-between. Saving 30 minutes here and there could add up to a couple of solid hours of productive work!
- Try implementing a flexible No Meetings Day concept that people can tailor to their own necessities. Rules don’t always have to be closely monitored.
So, what’s next for Typeform? Shorter, more structured, and more productive meetings. But it’s a journey, and No Meetings Day sure is a step in the right direction.
Beatrice specializes in digital marketing, and is currently working in social media for Typeform, a Barcelona-based startup. When not busy instagramming and tweeting, you’ll find her writing freelance articles, investigating local galleries, and getting acquainted with the best cafés and restaurants that Barcelona has to offer.