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Why canceling meetings won't ruin your company's culture

It’ll actually make it better

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When your day is all about meetings, work becomes groundhog day: wake up, drink coffee, open your computer, and jump between virtual or real conference rooms all day.

For some reason—maybe our human need to gather—meetings have become the default option for how we get anything done. But is it truly the best way to work?

Sometimes, yes, meetings are necessary for making important decisions. They’re also a great time to connect with colleagues and share ideas. However, many times, the answer to the question is a resounding “no.”

Why? Because too many meetings are poorly run or are just plain unnecessary, which just causes resentment and wastes time. In fact, according to research, 92% of employees see meetings as costly and unproductive. Another study found that, when meetings were reduced by 40%, productivity was 71% higher. That’s wild!

So, how do you do that at your company? That’s where asynchronous work comes in.

The goal of asynchronous work isn’t to have no meetings ever—that would be lonely. It’s to have fewer, shorter, better meetings. By doing so, you will have more time for focused work and can regain control over your day. All that helps you and your team reduce burnout, move projects forward faster, and stay aligned.

That’s why canceling more meetings won't ruin your team's culture—it’ll make it a whole lot better.

What does async work look like in practice?

Essentially, asynchronous work encourages people to move at their own pace and to find blocks of time for deep, productive work. It's a method that places emphasis on output rather than the time spent on each task—or time spent doing busywork, like talking about doing work. When done well, teams can share and review documents, proposals, and other materials on their own time before coming together for focused and purposeful synchronous discussions.

Here’s a framework you can follow:

  • Share async—like docs, slides, or code
  • Review async—add comments or make video walkthroughs
  • Discuss and decide async or together—either converse in comments or meet to talk as a group

Again—asynchronous work isn’t about cutting all meetings and working by yourself in a bat cave all day. It is about shortening meetings and cutting out inefficient ones so that, when you do come together as a team, that time is truly valuable.

Here’s what an async-forward day could look like for you.

Time for focus

Instead of bopping between meetings all day with a few sporadic 30-minute chunks of time for work, an async-forward day gives you uninterrupted time for focus. With larger chunks of unstructured time on your calendar, you can actually slow down, think, strategize, and be creative.

Increased productivity

Ready for an unbelievable fact? One study found that it takes 25 minutes to regain focus after being distracted. No wonder you can’t get anything done in a 30-minute slot between meetings! To be fair, meetings aren’t the only distraction—notifications, emails, dogs barking—all of it adds up. Async work helps reduce distractions by clearing your calendar and letting you turn on ‘do not disturb’ much more often.

Better alignment

One of the keys to asynchronous work is great communication between meetings. That means sending video messages, creating well written emails, and building organized projects. All that adds up to a well aligned team that knows where it’s going.

How asynchronous work makes team culture better

Some people worry that moving away from meetings will somehow ruin your team’s culture. Or that, as a manager, you won’t be able to keep track of your team.

Well, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Here’s why.

Have better discussions

How many times have you been shown a document or concept in a meeting and then, on the spot, you’re asked to give your opinion? For some people, that’s not a problem. For others, they need more time to sit with the information and process it before they can respond.

Asynchronous work allows team members to take the time they need to thoroughly review and understand information before contributing their insights. This paves the way for more thought-out, meaningful conversation that benefit the project.

Instead of spending time in meetings asking for reactions or going over details that could’ve been in an email, you can spend your time as a team making decisions, problem solving, and figuring out time-sensitive issues.

Pro tip: Instead of going into a meeting with a strict agenda, try going into a meeting with a list of questions that need to be answered. This will force you to really think about what you need to accomplish as a team instead of simply checking tasks off your list.

Move more quickly

When meetings are reserved for important discussions, they're likely to be shorter and more focused. This accelerates project progress since the team can quickly make crucial decisions and then move on to execution rather than being stuck in long, drawn-out discussions about details.

Also, by removing the need to sync multiple schedules for multiple meetings, team members can progress with their individual tasks in their own timezones and schedules. Instead of waiting a couple of days for an opening in someone’s calendar, you can just do work now, which collectively accelerates a project's progression.

Reduce burnout

According to Harvard Business Review, two of the top causes of burnout are too much work and a perceived lack of control. Luckily, asynchronous work helps alleviate both of these.

When your day is filled up with meetings, not only do you lack any control of your day, but you also have no time for work. With fewer meetings on your calendar, you can have longer uninterrupted blocks of time to engage in core, meaningful work. Not only does this help you get more done in a day, but you also feel like you have control over your time.

Asynchronous work will make your team happier—really

It might sound counterintuitive at first, but asynchronous work really does make people happier, contributes to a stronger team culture, and better work.

So—go forth. Look at your calendar. What meetings really need to be there? Can you shorten a 30-minute meeting to 15 minutes? Can you shift that status check to a Switchboard room?

You know you can. Good luck!

Photo by Tina Xinia on Unsplash

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