How to Deal With Meeting Overload at Workplace

How to Deal With Meeting Overload at Workplace

If you work in an office, chances are you’re no stranger to the dreaded meeting overload. 

Meetings—they’re essential for getting things done in a workplace, but they can also be huge time-suckers if not appropriately managed. A new study from organizational psychologist Steven Rogelberg and tech firm Otter.ai found that, on average, organizations invest US$80,000 on unproductive meetings and could save US$25,000 or more per employee annually by reducing their attendance at unnecessary meetings. That’s a lot of wasted money! 

If you’re finding that you’re spending too much time in meetings, there are some things you can do to change the situation. Here are a few tips for handling meeting overload at the workplace:

Schedule some “meeting-free” time

Set aside some time each day or week when you don’t schedule any meetings. This will give you some much-needed time to get the actual work done. A study by the University of Reading found that employee satisfaction increased by nearly 50 percent by providing one or two “meeting-free” days. This also allowed them to feel more autonomous at work. The researchers also reported a 26 percent decline in colleagues reporting stress from one meeting-free day, which increased to 43 percent among those who had two meeting-free days. 

Many companies are already following a meeting-free day or no meeting-day trend. Work management startup Asana follows a strict “No Meeting Wednesday”’ policy, which allows every employee to have one day when they can focus on their work without interruption. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by meetings, try scheduling some time for yourself and see how it affects your work life.

Set limits 

If you’re constantly bombarded with meetings at work, it can be tough to stay on top of everything. One way to deal with meeting overload is to set limits on recurring meetings. For instance, you should only attend necessary meetings and not feel obligated to participate in every meeting your company holds. Limit yourself to one or two recurring weekly meetings. This will help you focus on the most important thing at hand and free up some of your time so that you can enjoy your personal life outside of work. 

The executives at the communication platform Slack implemented calendar bankruptcy to eliminate recurring meetings and stay focused on what matters the most. This doesn’t mean there will be no more meetings. It just means that leaders will get much more intentional about the time they’re taking up on people’s calendars.

Speak up

Defaulting to an hour-long meeting can often be time inefficient. If a meeting is dragging on longer than it should, speak up and ask if anything else needs to be discussed. If not, propose ending the meeting so everyone can return to work.

Rogelberg suggests shorter meetings of 15, 20 or 25 minutes will increase productivity, as groups under pressure perform more optimally given greater focus and stimulation. In other words, when it comes to meetings, less is more. So if you feel like a meeting is starting to overload, don’t hesitate to pipe up and recommend ways to streamline it. Your colleagues will thank you for it!

Preserve energy

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many organizations to rely heavily on online meetings to stay connected and productive. However, this shift to virtual work comes with its challenges, including Zoom fatigue. This phenomenon is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, irritability and even eye strain after spending too much time on video calls. 

One way to help prevent zoom fatigue and meeting overload is to record your meetings. That way, you can listen back later and only focus on the parts that are most relevant to you. Plus, you can take breaks during the meeting if you need to without missing anything important. Video conferencing app Zoom has a “Smart Recordings” feature, which uses machine learning to split a recorded Zoom meeting into chapters for simple review.

If your team is spread out across different time zones, scheduling a meeting that works for everyone can be tricky. Hence, you can hold asynchronous meetings, allowing employees to join when convenient. Team members can share feedback via email, instant messaging or video recordings. It helps the participants contribute in their own time and at their own pace when they are ready. 

Messaging platform Slack has introduced asynchronous collaboration features for sharing voice, video and screen recordings. You can record and upload short videos or voice clips into a channel; others can watch them at their convenience and comment on them. There’s no need to worry about coordinating schedules or getting everyone on the same page. 

If you’re constantly in meetings and need more work done, try out some of these tips. They can help you take control of your schedule and get your work life back on track.

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Header image courtesy of Pexels

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