No matter where we’re working from, attending meetings is a typical facet of the working life of the majority of modern employees. In fact, if you’re in middle or upper management, you likely spend at least 35% of your time in meetings.
For the past year, employees all around the world navigated the transition from in-person meetings to virtual ones and now, as we approach the return to office, the world is once again transitioning to a new type of meeting.
Healthy meetings are the meeting type we have been working towards all along. Gone are the days of back to back to back hour long meetings that leave you burned out by 2pm. Gone are the unorganized conference room meetings where it seemed like most of the attendees were only there because without them there would be empty chairs in the room. Gone are the video conference calls where half of the attendees are muted, half have their cameras turned off so no one can see that they’re still in their pajamas and half are wondering why they’re there.
Instead, 2021 is the year we make one final transition to a new type of meeting. Healthy meetings are meetings that are necessary, inclusive and flexible. They don’t leave anyone out or leave anyone wondering, “Could this meeting have been an email?” And the best news is, the work to run healthy meetings has already been put into motion. Now all team leaders, directors and supervisors have to do to instill the healthy meeting mindset in their organizations is to approach them intentionally.
Let’s take a closer look at the essential traits of healthy meetings and run through how you can start running healthy hybrid meetings today.
Healthy meetings are no new phenomenon and neither are hybrid meetings. This year, as employees begin returning to the office in varying capacities and on different schedules they aren’t simply dumping all of the meeting tech they’ve used over the past year and pretending like 2020 never happened. Instead, they are finding new ways to integrate their favorite tech tools into their new hybrid work schedules. And with 80% of full-time employees agreeing that they expect to work from home at least three times a week in the future, it’s clear that hybrid and flexible schedules will be here to stay.
So, how do you run successful meetings in a post-COVID-19 world that are healthy and hybrid? The key is to think both individually and holistically.
On an individual level, before every meeting ask yourself questions like:
Once you have answered these questions for yourself you can make sure every attendee is necessary to the meeting and that everyone is able to attend the meeting in a way that matches their lifestyle/workstyle.
When thinking more big picture, ask yourself questions like:
Once you’ve answered these questions as well you will have all of the information you need to run a successful hybrid meeting. Then, once it’s time for your meeting you won’t have to spend your time wondering about things like if the meeting is unnecessary or if people are having trouble participating. Instead, you will have prepared thoroughly in order to ensure that the meeting is an essential and smooth moment of hybrid communication.
With 8 in 10 full-time employees agreeing that there should be one day a week with no meetings at all, it’s clear that the desire for healthier meetings is one shared throughout the world. With an estimate of 11 million meetings held each day, people are ready for more thoughtful consideration of how to share information and collaborate in new ways.
The transition to healthy meetings is long-awaited and a natural next step in the global workforce. Keep these five traits in mind and you’ll be on your way to creating a healthier meeting environment at your company.
Inclusivity has been a bit of a buzzword lately and for good reason. The more inclusive our lifestyles and workstyles are, the more open we are to the world around us. This inclusive mindset should also be applied to our meetings, especially in our increasingly hybrid world.
When it comes to meetings, inclusivity looks like making sure that all attendees have an equal ability to attend the meeting, have an equal ability to participate in the meeting and are provided with the same information as everyone else.
Practically, you can create a more inclusive meeting environment by ensuring that every attendee has equal access to meetings by making them all available to attend either in-person or remotely, depending on where employees are working from on any given day. Special care should be taken to make sure any attendees joining the meeting virtually are not slighted or looked over in favor of in-person attendees.
As our employees continue working on flexible schedules, our meetings have to become more flexible as well. But unlike the multiple different flexible schedules available to employees, there is only one primary way for meetings to become flexible— providing attendees various options on how to join.
The mark of a truly flexible meeting means that it can be attended:
As mentioned above, when attendees have more options to join meetings the meetings will become more inclusive and healthy environments. As a best practice, record all meetings for future reference or if someone isn’t able to attend live.
No one likes showing up to meetings without knowing what to expect. Unclear expectations can quickly lead to frustration and annoyance of attendees. When running healthy meetings, be as transparent about the context and contents of the meeting as possible. One easy way to do this is by creating a meeting agenda that is distributed in the days leading up to the meeting so attendees have ample time to add to the agenda if necessary.
Transparency means that all employees are prepared and have appropriate expectations for the meeting they are about to attend. Without transparency surrounding your meetings, you run the risk of employees questioning your attentions and potentially losing faith in your leadership.
Meetings can help replace lengthy email conversations, but they can derail a productive day. The general rule of thumb is that meetings shouldn’t be much longer than 30-45 minutes or about the length of the adult attention span.
The most recent research shows that ideal meeting lengths are 25 minutes for short meetings and 45 minutes for long ones. If meetings are any shorter than 25 minutes then their necessity should be reexamined to see if the information in such a short meeting is a better fit for an email or standup meeting and if meetings are longer than 45 minutes your attendees will start to lose focus.
Remember, just because your calendar app automatically blocks out half hour and hour long timeframes for meetings doesn’t mean you have to fill the entire block. Instead, stick to your agenda and meeting facilitator strategies to keep the meeting on track and moving forward.
The healthiest meetings are used for collaboration and to convey important information. If your meetings are framed as lectures or dissolve into an opportunity for socialization, you are going to have some attendees glancing at their watches instead of focusing on the information being presented to them.
The last and arguably the most essential trait of healthy meetings is that they are necessary. The worst case scenario for meetings is that your attendees walk away feeling as though they just wasted their time. Meetings are designed to be an opportunity for fruitful collaboration, a platform to convey necessary information and moments of connection between coworkers. If your employees are walking or logging in to meetings wondering if it will be worth their time before it even starts then you will have a really hard time engaging them in the meeting.
With these five key elements of healthy meetings in mind, you are as prepared as you’ll ever be to instill a healthy meeting mindset into your workplace. And once you create this healthy meeting environment, attendees will cease fearing meetings and begin to fully engage with them. If you are ready to take your meetings to the next level, check out The Ultimate Guide to Leading, Running and Participating in Meetings.