When to actually have a meeting

If you’ve recently been thrust into the world of remote work by the threat of COVID-19, you’re likely to be experiencing some anxiety about this new modality. Or perhaps you’re no stranger to working from home on a part-time basis, but the knowledge you won’t be going into the office for your regular weekly team meeting makes you a bit uncomfortable. And even if you’re used to flexible work, you may have some concerns about being part of a now fully-distributed team. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you’re probably wondering how you’ll effectively connect with your team to make decisions in the coming days and weeks. In other words: when should I meet with them?

It’s an understandable concern at a time when “face-to-face” has been replaced by “stay-in-place.” Aside from our natural human need to socialize and the health benefits we derive from interacting with others, we’re conditioned to gather when we need to make important business decisions.

But now, more than ever, is a good time to step back and ask yourself these three questions before booking time on your team’s calendar:

  1. Do We Have Time?
    Consider this before you carve out time in your team’s already-busy schedule: the average middle manager spends about 35% of their time in meetings. And remote workers believe meetings reduce their productivity 1.8x more than on-site workers. If your team is already adjusting to a new way of getting work done, the potential productivity hit from meetings may be even greater.
    Here’s another way to think about this: what would my team be spending their time on if they didn’t have to be in this meeting? The answer to this question may be enough to convince you to hold off on gathering them.
  2. Am I Ready?
    We don’t work in a vacuum, which leads us to seek out the opinions and perspectives of our teammates. However, sometimes this interdependence leads us to bring ‘all hands on deck’ before there’s a real need for their contributions.
    One important clue: if the purpose of a potential meeting isn’t abundantly clear to you, chances are good you haven’t thought through the situation as well as you could. If this is the case, try taking a step back — book time with yourself for strategic thinking. A simple high-level review of your project may reveal you’ve got some planning to do before getting your teammates involved in the process.
  3. Is There Another Way?
    It’s no secret that meetings aren’t always necessary. Decisions don’t always need to be made in real-time, and are in some cases better achieved asynchronously.
    There’s power in developing comfort with delayed gratification. Try thinking about a few of the questions you planned to ask your team members, and how they’d respond if asked these questions during a meeting. Now imagine how their responses might differ if they had a few hours or even a day to think through the possibilities.

Meetings can be powerful tools for real-time collaboration and decision-making. That’s why we often gravitate toward them as the first step of a new initiative, or to mark key milestones in a project’s lifecycle. After considering the three questions above, you may well decide that, yes, it’s time to send out an invite to your team. But you’ll be better prepared to hold a meeting that is productive — and rewarding — for all involved.