When a team of researchers at Microsoft analyzed how employees at that company were experiencing the shift to remote work, they found a surprising data point: Workers were scheduling more 30-minute meetings than they ever had before, contributing to an overall meeting-time increase of 10% each week. This is not good news. As the researchers point out, meetings generally decrease employee productivity and happiness. It’s time to rethink (virtual) meetings.
The following two charts can guide you and your team in deciding when, why, and how to meet. The first, an HBR classic, offers a decision tree with options other than scheduling that block of time on the calendar.
Published in 2015, this model includes the option for in-person meetings. While this may not work for a fully virtual team, it may be an option for hybrid teams or remote teams that still meet face-to-face occasionally.
It’s not just availability that you need to consider when scheduling meetings. If your team is remote, you need to also consider the psychological impact of videoconferencing. As Scott D. Anthony, Paul Cobban, Natalie Painchaud, and Andy Parker write in their article, “3 Steps to Better Virtual Meetings,” workers can suffer from “video fatigue,” experiencing lower concentration levels after even just 30 minutes of a video call and increased stress after two hours of videoconferencing.
Their solutions (or BEANs — behavior enablers, artifacts, and nudges), outlined in the chart below, offer a psychological reset for teams that are overburdened by their virtual meetings.
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We won’t suggest that you call a meeting with your team to discuss this! Instead, we’ll point you back to that decision chart at the top to let you decide for yourself. If you do decide to call that meeting, ask your team what desired meeting behavior it would be helpful to consider. Which of the BEANs will you try at your next gathering?
This chart collection is part of Data & Visuals, HBR’s home for charts.