As companies have started to make the shift from remote work being a temporary necessity to a way of life, there’s been a lot said over the issue of productivity.
“How can we be sure everyone is as productive as they were when they were working in the office?” people ask, nearly tearing their hair out with anxiety? “What can managers do to ensure that everyone is staying on task and completing their work?”
It turns out that one easy way to help people work is to (drumroll please) actually give them more time to work!
“No Meeting Wednesdays” “Meeting Free Fridays” “Meeting Free Days”. It doesn’t matter what you call it. A lot of offices are hopping on the trend of declaring certain days or periods of time as “meeting-free”, and we’re one of them!
No meeting days: what they are and how they work
A concept with a name like “no meeting days” is pretty straightforward. No meeting days are workdays where people can look forward to a lack of meetings. But…why would a company do that?
Believe it or not, a lot of workplaces are implementing no meeting days as a way to increase productivity in two ways:
- Give employees time to focus on important “deep work” tasks without having to worry about being interrupted
- Force regular meetings to work a little harder
Some work tasks are going to require a little more focus time and thought than others. It can be incredibly rare for people to find enough time to be “heads-down” during their usual workday. No meeting days are quickly becoming a way to give people more time to focus on their work.
Think about how much you could get done if you had one day you knew you’d face no interruptions. You could focus on strategy work, flesh out new ideas, or simply play catch-up since you won’t have to worry about getting pulled into something else.
Some companies take no meeting days to a whole other level. They’ll allow employees to turn off their phones and silence notifications so they can have complete concentration. After all, a check-in text about tomorrow’s lunch plans can wait if you’re spending time ideating and solving complex problems.
As for the “force meetings to work harder” comment …can you honestly say that every single meeting you have on your calendar is a good use of your time? There’s a reason why research shows that 40% of people find that their meetings are unproductive.
Pointless meetings have claimed yet another victim
We could say a lot about the culture that surrounds endless meetings. There are plenty of managers and co-workers that think that meetings are automatically productive by virtue of just being meetings. Instead of actually getting anything meaningful done, you’ll just spend another 30-45 minutes on an issue that could have been resolved with a DM.
People tend to put a bit more effort into planning effective meetings when they know they won’t have as much time to do them. When you implement no meeting days you’re essentially forced into ensuring that your regular meetings are more efficient and goal-oriented.
How we do no meeting days: no (internal) meeting Wednesday
There’s a reason why we’re big proponents of no meeting days: we have one of our own. We’ve taken a long look at the way we handle internal comms at Guru and wanted to find ways to help everyone work more efficiently. We implemented our own version of no meeting Wednesdays where we encourage employees to not schedule internal meetings. Standing client meetings were allowed, but managers were also encouraged to find alternative dates whenever possible.
So far, we have to say that we’re loving the results. Our most recent employee survey shows that 75% of respondents say that no meeting Wednesday has been effective in increasing focus time and reducing the number of meetings. Considering that the bulk of this post was written on a no meeting Wednesday, it looks like everything is working as planned!
How to implement a no meeting day of your own
You love the idea of having a meetingless day, but you’re not sure how you’re going to get the powers that be to agree to it. Don’t worry, we have your back.
In order for no meeting days to work, you’re going to need two things. One is a solid understanding of how well your current meetings are working for the team. We highly recommend performing a meeting audit to help reduce time spent on unproductive meetings. If you need a little help determining how well things are going, we recommend going by our 4 P’s rule.
You’re also going to need to have everyone in agreement on when focus time will happen. Luckily for you, we know just how to do that. Every company may have different policies and needs, but there are some basic tenants to no meeting days that make them a success. If you want to make your dream of meeting free days a reality, here’s what you need to do.
We’re not going to sugar-coat it. There will be some pushback from management and fellow employees on a no meeting day. Meetings are practically synonymous with work at some offices, so people may be taken a bit off guard when you announce that meeting-free days are going to become the norm.
Have clear reasoning on why you want people to participate in no meeting days. Feel free to mention some of our talking points from above, and stress how this can give people a little more control over their schedule.
In order for no meeting days to work you and your team members need to be communicating as much as possible. No meeting days will only work (and stick around) if people are able to get important things done. Be sure to stress the importance of communication regardless of if it’s a no meeting day or not.
This is one reason why we’re huge fans of asynchronous communication at work. It keeps the lines of communication open and allows people to work whenever they need to. Implementing something as simple as a regular newsletter that rounds up important content to share and read instead of taking up meeting time can be a huge time saver.
Set your ground rules
Do no meeting days also double as “no e-mail” and “no Slack” days? Are standing meetings with clients still fair-game on no meeting days, or do you need to reschedule? What happens if you have a fire that needs a few people to hop on a call?
Don't leave people guessing
Every company will handle no meeting days the way they see fit. Setting ground rules for expectations around certain things can make your no meeting days more effective and less confusing. Make sure everyone is on the same page about what can be done on these days and what needs to wait.
Mindfulness is key to making meeting-free days work. Job candidates may only be able to meet with the team on your meeting-free day. The best time for you and a colleague to meet and brainstorm ideas could only work on your meeting free Friday. There will always be exceptions to the rule. Just make sure you’re doing your part to follow established protocols, use your meeting free time wisely, and respect that it’s a no meeting day for everyone else on your team too.
Remember, in order for this to work everyone needs to follow the rules, and that includes people in leadership. Make sure people in management are clear on the no meeting day rules and address any concerns they may have upfront.
Change the way you handle meetings
Declaring a no meeting day won’t make work needs disappear. Most of the time people just shrug and push their meetings to another day. That move may make sense, but it could do more to harm productivity.
Remember, adding another meeting to a full day isn’t the point of having meeting-free days.
We mentioned that one of the best side-effects of meeting-free days is that they essentially force people to plan better meetings. We have some basic tips for people that want to improve and reduce their number of meetings:
- Make sure that every meeting has a set agenda and ends with actionable outcomes.
- Assign roles for meetings with large groups of people to help keep everyone on track and productive.
- Don’t be afraid to cancel meetings if you don’t think they’re the best use of time.
- Send follow-up emails that recap what goes on during meetings and remind people of the next steps they need to take.
Want to take a deeper dive into some of these concepts? Check out our card on our best practice to reduce meetings.
Increase productivity, decrease meetings
We’re far from the only company that’s implementing no meeting days, and we won’t be the last. As more companies switch to hybrid schedules and workforces become more distributed, productivity and flexibility matter more than ever. You’d be surprised at how much more accomplished people can be at work when they have the time to focus on well...their work.
As more offices make the move to hybrid models it’s important to be open to trying new things to improve the workplace experience. Today the biggest trend is no meeting days, and tomorrow it could be something entirely different. Keeping an open mind can help your workplace evolve and stay competitive in an ever-changing landscape.
Meetings will always have a place at work, we just want the place they have to make sense for everyone. Join the movement to take back the workday and grab a little more time for yourself to focus on what truly matters. We’d tell your boss ourselves, but it turns out that they’re currently in a 2-hour meeting where people have already spent the first 45 minutes wondering what the outcome of the meeting should be.