How To Move Away From Meeting-Driven Culture
The pandemic popularized video conferencing, leading to an onslaught of virtual meetings. Dialpad reported that around 54% of U.S. professionals spend more than four hours a week in video meetings, and about 17% spend more than 12 hours.
It’s no surprise that remote professionals are getting frustrated with meeting overload. Don’t get us wrong—a good meeting can be useful if it’s well-planned and the topic needs face-to-face communication. But that’s rarely the case.
And meetings often lead to more meetings. We all have that one company meeting that was never supposed to be recurring and now takes up an hour every Monday morning. Meeting culture can damage employee satisfaction and your team’s productivity. A bad meeting can drain you and ruin your productivity for the rest of the day.
Many senior managers are familiar with these complaints. According to a Clockwise survey, 54% of respondents blamed their direct managers or upper management for crazy meeting schedules. But at the same time, team leaders are afraid that reducing meetings will make their teams less collaborative or less connected.
Fortunately, there are ways to cut out unnecessary meetings while still keeping your team fast-moving and tight-knit. Here are a few ideas.
Cancel unnecessary meetings
The same survey showed that 78% of respondents “feel that their meeting schedule is either always or sometimes out of control.” By canceling unnecessary meetings, you’ll free up a lot of time for everyone for deep, productive work–and spontaneous collaboration.
To determine if the next remote meetings you have scheduled are necessary, figure out the meeting’s purpose and who needs to be involved.
Determine and align on the purpose of the meeting in advance
We often schedule meetings because we don’t know what to do next on a project or because we want to build connections with our team. A dedicated purpose for your meeting can often illuminate the fact that you didn’t need a team meeting in the first place.
Spend time completing high-level planning and strategy tasks that require your decision-making before pulling other team members away from their real work.
Then, if the purpose of your meeting is to share that information, consider an email, Slack update, or recorded video to save time. In fact, if you share the meeting agenda beforehand, you might even realize that it doesn’t require any face-to-face time at all.
If the meeting’s purpose is mainly for your team to connect, there are more fun and casual ways to achieve the same result.
Review the list of recurring meetings and meeting attendees
Make sure you are thinking in a bare-minimum mindset when it comes to your meeting attendees and recurring meetings.
You will often find that instead of a full-on meeting, all you needed was a quick check-in with one of your team members. That meeting can now be canceled, which saves the rest of your team from the physical and mental fatigue that comes with unnecessarily preparing for and sitting through a meeting that doesn’t directly involve them.
Sure, your accountant could be useful in the sales meeting in case any accounting-related questions come up, but do they need to be? If your accountant won’t be fully engaged in the meeting, it probably makes more sense to hold off on sending them a meeting invite. At the very least, you could wait until they’re needed instead of having them sit through the whole meeting agenda. Trust us; they’ll thank you for it.
Develop clear guidelines for when to use synchronous and asynchronous communication
There’s been a lot of conversation about synchronous and asynchronous communication since the pandemic, but how do you determine which is right for different business situations—and how to define the balance of each on your team?
Using the wrong combination of synchronous and asynchronous communication can lead to more unnecessary meetings that waste everyone’s time. Clear guidelines will help you have fewer meetings and be more intentional about the ones you do have.
Use synchronous communication to build relationships, collaborate, and get aligned
Synchronous communication is helpful for relationship building, active collaboration, prioritizing, and getting aligned on complex topics. Talking live is ideal for tackling meaty problems and helping your teammates move faster. The catch: this doesn’t always mean scheduling another meeting.
While many remote teams default to Zoom or Microsoft Teams for meetings, they can feel like a barrier to talking live more spontaneously, and can make any conversation feel like a formal meeting. Other tools—like Remotion—can better facilitate synchronous collaboration in real time and make space for more casual collaboration and non-work conversations.
Remotion is a video app designed for sync remote collaboration. Its features help you make room for spontaneous, live collaboration that can often take the place of meetings. It helps teams see when their coworkers are chatting, hop into jam sessions throughout the day in project or team-based coworking rooms (without the need for a meeting host or link invite).
You can also use Remotion to ask quick questions with ad-hoc calls, and collaborate more naturally with multi-user screenshare. The app helps spark collaboration in moments you need it so your team can reap the benefits of synchronous communication without having to schedule more meetings.
Use asynchronous communication to address anything non-urgent
Asynchronous communication methods are best for sharing progress updates, giving feedback, communicating between different time zones, and any other task that isn’t urgent or at risk of being misinterpreted. There are many asynchronous communication tools available that you can leverage to cut down on meetings you might be inclined to schedule to cover these topics.
Take Loom, for example. This asynchronous tool allows you to record videos of yourself and your screen at the same time so you can walk your team members through new ideas and procedures. Your team members can reference this video on their own schedules and as often as they like.
When it comes to documentation and building a culture of writing, Notion is a fully customizable solution. It’s an internal database that you can use to store everything from company procedure documents to instructions for helpful tools and meeting videos.
Slack is another good example of asynchronous communication. Slack is a good place for your status updates and for sharing messages that you want the broader team to be aware of. Encouraging your team to default to public channels in Slack is especially helpful remotely for making sure everyone has a transparent view into what the team is working on. You can use integrations to automate daily update messages to replace recurring check-in meetings. These apps negate meeting practices and make sure your team has the maximum time to actually build and create together.
Make room for more casual and spontaneous collaboration instead of meetings
Synchronous communication does not have to equal another scheduled meeting!
Meetings can feel formal remotely, and may be draining as a result. You can help your remote team move faster and feel more energized by encouraging spontaneous conversation and casual problem-solving sessions instead of relying on mandatory meetings to drive collaboration. With a few small changes, you’ll build trust and accountability within your team and have fewer meetings in the future.
Generate company-wide alignment on a culture shift towards collaboration
If you’re starting with a meeting-heavy culture and want to move towards a culture of spontaneous collaboration, you’ll need to put some work in to set expectations across your remote team. The first step is aligning on clear norms. Introduce the topic in a culture retrospective or an all-hands meeting, or run a survey on how your team prefers to communicate.
Take the results of the conversation and turn them into a set of communication guidelines that actively encourage pairing and collaborating live, and canceling unnecessary meetings. It can be helpful to include guidelines on what constitutes an unnecessary meeting, or to run through a recurring meeting audit as a team and discuss how to replace or prune certain online meetings.
Set up virtual coworking rooms
Use Remotion to open up virtual coworking rooms for each project and/or team—where team members hop in to collaborate or just work in parallel whenever they want. The idea is the team can talk to or collaborate with whoever is there at the moment, or they can simply work alongside their teammates and listen to music together.
Remotion rooms sit on the edge of your desktop and can be used as a convenient meeting room that doesn’t require a meeting host or link—but they’re primarily made for lightweight, laid-back collaboration and remote coworking.
Have a “no meeting day”
Meetings are just plain disruptive to workflow. A designated “no-meeting day” can boost productivity and improve team morale. In one study, a single day without meetings reduced stress by 26% and improved communication by 45%. These big blocks of focus time help team members get deep work done, especially in maker schedules.
Give your team members the tools they need to communicate effectively—without meeting overload
Minimizing meetings and developing an efficient meeting culture can help you build a more cohesive and connected remote team. Choose the right apps and educate your team on how to use them.
Choose the right combination apps for your team
While there are plenty of tools available for teams looking to reduce meetings and run more efficient meetings, not every tool is right for every team. Assess the needs of your team and get feedback from your team to choose what apps are right for you.
- Are you trying to course-correct for standups that drag on and on? Try spinach.io to run a faster, more structured standup (sync or async)
- If you want to remove attendees from some of your meetings but aren’t sure that you can keep team members aligned, try tl;dv
- Dive can help you run more efficient meetings that drive action
- Sesh is a smarter meeting agenda that will help you make the most of the meetings you do have
- Remotion can help you spark more collaborative problem-solving that rarely happens in meetings. If you ask us, you should try some combo of all of the above.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, try some free trials to better understand your options. Give your teammates the opportunity to try them and offer feedback as well.
Educate your team members
Once you choose one or multiple apps to fit your company culture, you’ll need to get your team to use them. Taking the time to educate your team on all of the amazing advantages these apps present is well worth it because they’ll get the most out of their resources, and you’ll get the most bang for your buck. It’s a win-win.
Try making training guides and templates for your team to reference whenever they need to (we have our training guides in Notion). You can include step-by-step instructions, include all relevant links so that they’re all in one place, and record videos using apps like Loom.
It also helps to make the line of access to customer support easily available for your team in case any issues arise. You can even come up with sample tasks in each app to make sure your team members use them properly at least once.
Embrace the future beyond meeting culture with Remotion
A recent MIT Sloan study found that when meetings are reduced by 40%, productivity increases by 71%. It improves team cohesion and collaboration too. Drive remote collaboration with tools like Remotion today and move toward a future with fewer unnecessary meetings and more energizing collaboration for your remote team members.
The case for virtual coworking: build a connected remote culture.
Regularly coworking with your hybrid or remote team can help you build the social cohesion that makes work feel less like work.
Here are the biggest reasons we think virtual coworking is an effective way to create a close-knit remote culture:
1. It fosters casual conversations.
Building a connected remote culture is all about fostering 1:1 or small group organic conversations. Virtual coworking makes space for those conversations. When you spend time together outside of agenda-driven meetings, spontaneous chats naturally occur, as they would in a traditional office.
2. It's more inclusive than scheduled social events.
It can be draining for introverts to have to participate in scheduled, purely social conversations. Virtual coworking allows the team to spend time together and occasionally chat without having to constantly be "on," making it more inclusive for introverts and extroverts alike.
3. It's easy to say yes to.
Purely social events are important, but if your remote team is busy or on a tight deadline, it's tough to find the time for social chats without it feeling like an obligation. Coworking is much easier to get your distributed team onboard with because it doesn't take time away from getting work done.
4. It improves remote collaboration.
Coworking can lead to unblocking and shorter feedback loops and stronger remote collaboration. Quick questions get answered easily and in the moment, without a having to schedule a meeting or go back-and-forth in messages. Coworking also builds peer accountability.
5. It's scalable.
Coworking works for teams of all sizes and is a great way to scale your remote culture as your team grows. It's helpful to create opportunities for teammates from different functions to get to know one another.
6. It creates shared momentum.
Virtual coworking helps remote workers for the same reason you might get a membership at a traditional coworking space: the feeling of togetherness is motivating!
Get started with virtual coworking: choose the type most aligned with your priorities.
It takes intentionality to make virtual coworking feel natural and energizing enough to stick—it's not as simple as leaving a Zoom call open all day.
Here are a few of the ways we've set coworking up for our team. We recommend choosing one to start with. If it works, make it routine and experiment with other types from there.
Try independent coworking.
Try project-based coworking.
Best practices for virtual coworking.
Keep group sizes small.
Limit your work sessions to 4-6 people to minimize distraction and help make introverted teammates comfortable chatting.
Signal boost coworking.
Set a norm of letting the entire team know when you're hopping into a coworking room or session.
Make it routine.
Once you've figured out what kind of coworking works for your team, make it a regular, opt-in event. Set up a recurring calendar event to do it at the same time each week to maximize the impact.
Set expectations ahead of time.
When you're first introducing coworking to your remote team, share what you're imagining in your calendar invite and at the top of work sessions to get everyone on the same page. For example:
Let's try virtual coworking! We'll work independently on our own projects with our cameras off, but we'll share virtual space and listen to music together — like we might work side-by-side at a physical office.
Listen to music together.
Play music while you work in a virtual room to create a shared environment and add a little bit of personality to your virtual coworking session.
Set up Coworking Rooms in Remotion.
Most of the above is doable with any video chat app or virtual office, but much easier with Remotion—which we designed with a lightweight, smooth coworking experience in mind. Remotion is the perfect virtual coworking platform—easily set up virtual rooms that your teammates can hop into for different styles of coworking.
While Remotion's virtual workspace is free to use with your remote team, if you're curious about joining a virtual coworking community built on our platform—check out Swift Remote Studio for iOS, Mac, and Swift developers.