Same goal, different paths: Don't let meetings kill productivity

Hitting the big red stop button makes everybody stop work to attend a meeting - that's exactly what's killing productivity.

Company-wide updates are an essential part of running a successful business. They allow busy executives to communicate information that everyone needs to hear. They are culturally important. They are also a massive pain for everybody.

Employees are trusted to start each work day with their own personal objectives, working together to push towards the same goal. It’s worth remembering that they all get there via different paths.

Hitting the big red stop button gets everyone to stop working and attend a meeting – and that’s precisely what’s killing productivity.

Recognising diverse working is key

People are employed to get the job done the way that suits them best, from CEO to intern, programmer to PR. People work to different beats.

For every morning person in a company there’s a night owl. For every nine-to-fiver in the office there’s a part-time working parent in a hoodie at home. For every manager glued to their hourly schedule there’s a team with entire days blocked out to solve one problem.

Any one of these employees thrives at different times of day, for different amounts of time. They don’t all work to the same schedule, nor should they. So why are they all expected to attend company-wide meetings at the same time?

Leading by example not by schedule

Company-wide meetings are arranged around the diary of one CEO or manager, where everyone else has to fall in line, leave their desks and gather around for a presentation. Workflows are disrupted, ideas are put on pause, productivity grinds to a halt, and the damage is done.

A company-wide presentation may be given, but that doesn’t mean its information is taken on board by everyone in the room. Attention spans are short, and minds are on the tasks that have been disrupted, stress building over time lost. Now that we’re living in a post-pandemic world, meetings are more likely to be over video calls, where attention spans are even shorter.

Companies and their meetings are made up of managers and makers. Managers can break their schedules into bite-sized hourly chunks, with seven meetings or tasks per day. Makers on the other hand are employed for their heads-down creative work that often requires half day- or day-long blocks of time to solve problems and churn through complex work.

To a manager it makes sense to call an hour’s meeting. But the makers don’t work that way. An hour’s disruption could mean a whole day of productive work is jeopardised. If your business is five people in a room then face-to-face is going to work. But as soon as your employee count creeps over twenty then the disruption of an all hands meeting can drastically damage productivity.

Meetings often divide when they mean to unite

But we aren’t blaming the higher-ups here. How else is information meant to be conveyed to a whole business when email is famously impersonal, missed, or ignored? It’s easy to see how making people physically attend a meeting or video call has become the norm for mass communication in the workplace.

Technology has opened up endless possibilities for businesses and allowed them to adapt and thrive. But somehow, meetings are still stuck firmly in the past.

Company-wide meetings are important and should be compulsory. But they can be so much more effective when they are digital and freely accessible on an individual’s schedule rather than one-time only and crowbarred around a single person’s schedule.

The modern workplace should take advantage of technology beyond the PowerPoint and the projector, and post-pandemic it has been forced to like never before. But don’t get stressed – it is exciting to realise that company-wide meetings can be virtual, short, and effective while staying compulsory.

Two-way respect through positive change

Simply realising that a company runs on hundreds of different clocks is the key to better communication. When a company can take a step back and retire that big red button, it gets employees back on their different paths to the same goal.

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