Meetings: A waste of time, or an opportunity to share and refine information while strengthening a sense of community? This catch 22 has led employees to question the logic of meetings, which now consume most of the workday.
The global transition from office to remote work has significantly increased the number of online meetings. For Kiiltonians, this new way of life has challenged the old ways of time management, especially when scheduling and attending back-to-back digital meetings without interrupting the natural flow of everyday work. Aware of this growing pain point, Kiilto wanted to experiment with various configurations that would streamline work processes, improve time management, and provide time for rest and recovery during business hours.
“We here at HR received complaints from many clerical employees that their working days had turned into Teams marathons without any breaks, and that they only had time to start their ‘real work’ at 4 pm when all the meetings were over. We had come to a point where changes were urgently needed. Something had to be done,” says HR Business Partner Satu von Bagh, who led the project.
The “meeting-free zone” pilot was welcomed with enthusiasm
With operations across three time zones, the job description of many Kiilto employees includes working in multinational teams with clashing schedules. On one hand, digital meetings offer a new sense of flexibility, efficiency, and connectedness. On the other, digital meetings threaten to disturb regular break intervals or, worse yet, cut them out altogether. When working remotely, Kiiltonians found it easier to give up their actual lunch break and just eat at their computer during remote meetings, so that they did not miss a beat. However, this steady invasion of free time heavily impacted the overall Kiiltonian peace of mind.
“We wanted to make sure that everyone had the chance to take a real lunchtime break to get their energy back, and that each working day also included a continuous period of calm, uninterrupted working time,” says von Bagh.
The meeting-free zone at lunchtime was first piloted with a small team. A two-hour time slot was added to the electronic calendars, during which no meetings were to be held, if possible. The trial received a warm welcome, and so it was expanded to include the entire company.
“The pilot project is still underway, and its future will be decided based on the feedback and experiences,” continues von Bagh.
A new structure, rhythm and guidelines for meetings
The project team carried out a survey to determine the most common meeting-related difficulties facing Kiiltonians. The results were used to establish ground rules for effective and efficient meeting practices.
“The most important rule is to carefully consider whether a meeting is even necessary. Could the matter be handled in some other way? Meetings must have a goal, and the person convening it must take a moment to think about who needs to be invited. Attending a meeting always takes time away from other tasks,” von Bagh points out.
Those invited to meetings also bear some of the responsibility, and they should think about whether attending is necessary for themselves or for promoting the agenda of the meeting. The more independent work becomes, the more important it is for every employee to set priorities for how they use their time. In addition to meetings, they should also allocate time for other matters that are part of their job description.
Three tips for a better meeting culture
- Always assess whether it is necessary to organise a meeting, or to be invited or to participate in one.
- Change the default duration of meetings (e.g., 25 or 50 minutes), so that the participants always have a brief free moment between meetings.
- When participating in a meeting organised by someone else, do your part to keep it on topic and on schedule.