| By Lee Rossini of CompliNews |
Whether meeting in person or online, attending too many meetings can be overwhelming. This is especially true now, as many employees are still working from home. Casual conversations that once took place around the watercooler must now be scheduled in and hosted on virtual platforms, overburdening employees with often superfluous meetings.
The statistics speak for themselves: between December 2019 and April 2020, the number of daily participants on Zoom rose from 10 million to 300 million. This number continues to grow, yet the effects of having so many meetings are far from positive. Here are some reasons why we feel obliged to overload ourselves with meetings, and some suggestions on how to change this situation.
1. The Fear of Missing Out
Meetings are held because of the presumed potential they have to offer solutions. However, solutions are not always achieved. Yet, most employees still feel compelled to attend because we think that during the meeting, discussions will take place, and these mythical solutions will be arrived at, and we most definitely do not want to miss out on being part of the solution.
Thus, we show up because we fear we may miss out, even if our presence is not required.
Fixing this problem is simple.
Either you can inform your immediate manager that you are prioritising your obligatory, more necessary work and that you will be available for other, unrelated meetings outside of those hours; or, if you are hosting the meeting, only invite employees who are essential to the successful outcome of the meeting and notify others that their presence is not essential, thereby giving them an opportunity to spend their time in a more productive way.
2. Commitment Devices
A ‘commitment device’ is defined in the Harvard Business Review as a “[mechanism] to help make sure people follow through on their promises”. In other words, it is an external motivator to complete a task; however, it has no role in influencing or assisting the completion of that task. Many meetings require the attendees to complete tasks following the meeting, thereby adding to already heavy workloads.
These types of meetings can be removed from your schedule if it is agreed that if the necessary task is completed, the meeting does not need to be held. Conversely, if the work has not been done, then a quick meeting may need to be held to ascertain why the work has not been completed, but the reasons for the meeting should be communicated prior to it taking place.
3. Mere Urgency Effect
Attending a meeting can feel like an accomplishment, even if the meeting itself is unimportant. This is particularly prevalent in times of stress, and our long-term goals are not being achieved, then simply showing up to a meeting can feel like a goal has been achieved. This is called the Mere Urgency Effect when our insignificant short-term goals are prioritised simply because they give us some solace from what we are not actually accomplishing.
The solution to this is to communicate beforehand to check whether any attendees have any pressing issues they urgently need to discuss. If not, it is best to cancel the meeting.
4. Meeting Amnesia
Attending meetings that are unimportant is at least one step above attending meetings we have already had, especially when the same topic from previous meetings is rehashed. Showing up at a meeting on several occasions to discuss a topic repeatedly is not only a waste of time, but it can also feel like no progress is being made.
The solution to having repeat meetings is for the chair to make notes of what was said in the first meeting, and to distribute the summary for attendees to read as a means of keeping those people who couldn’t attend up to date.
During this time of working either completely at home or in a hybrid version, it is important not to lose sight of long-term goals. Instead of filling our schedules with meetings that are often redundant, we should prioritise the work that gives us purpose. That is not to say that all meetings are not worth attending, of course, some are necessary. These are the meetings that help us progress toward, rather than distract from, what we would most like to achieve in our work lives.
- The Psychology Behind Meeting Overload Harvard Business Review [available online on https://hbr.org/2021/11/the-psychology-behind-meeting-overload]
- Virtual Work Meetings During the Covid-19 Pandemic: The Good, Bad and Ugly Sage Journals [available online on https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/10464964211015286]
- Zoom User Stats: How Many People Use Zoom in 2022 Backlinko [available online on https://backlinko.com/zoom-users]