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Hybrid working: digital communication and collaboration
Hybrid working: digital communication and collaboration

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7 Do you really need a meeting?

We are spending more time in meetings, and the first question you need to ask is: ‘Why do you need a meeting?’ Is another communication channel better or more effective? The image and table below, based on the ‘Productivity trends report: one-on-one meeting statistics’ by reclaimai (2021), provide a useful visual overview of just how much of our working life is taken up by meetings.

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Figure 18 How much of our working life is taken up by meetings, adapted from reclaimai (2021)
Table 4 Time spent in meetings
Activity Average Professional Busy Professional
Meetings per week 21.5 hours 39.9 hours
One-on-ones rescheduled a year 118.7 182.3
One-on-ones cancelled per year 82.9 127.3
1:1 a year Feb 2020 45 100
1:1 a year Oct 2021 278 430
Workday Feb 2020 7.5 hours 9.0 hours
Workday Oct 2021 8.9 hours 10.13 hours

Source: reclaimai (2021)

Activity 23 How much time do you spend in meetings?

Timing: 10 minutes

Have a look at ‘Productivity trends report: one-on-one meeting statistics’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (reclaimai, 2021) and think about the meetings you have. Spend some time defining what type of meetings you have (Who are they with? What are they for?), and decide which are essential.

Are there other ways of gathering the information you require instead of from a meeting? What is the value of the meeting for you, for your role or for your wellbeing?

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I spend most of my time in meetings, and they have different purposes. The image below shows my four main groups of meetings, and these can vary from being face to face, completely virtual or hybrid. While most of the meetings have a formal business purpose, some are for informal catch-ups or because I need to ask questions to understand something I am working on.

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Figure 19 Different types of meetings and their purposes

The most important thing for me, though, is the wellbeing of those I work with and my own wellbeing. Meetings are also opportunities for human connections, which is important for those who are working remotely.

What’s the purpose of the meeting?

Being clear on the purpose of the meeting, what type of meeting it needs to be – in person, hybrid or remote – and how it will be run will lead to more effective and valuable meetings.

How confident and curious you are, and your preferred way of working, will often be reflected in your choice of meeting type. I am comfortable attending any type of meeting and don’t really distinguish between them, as for me it is just a meeting, and my approach and behaviour will focus on the purpose of the meeting rather than how the meeting is being held.

For others, different meeting types can be challenging, and some people may find that their confidence is a little lower now, especially if they are new to the organisation or in their first job. In addition, expectations for attending meetings are now different, and workplace ‘norms’ are not necessarily as transparent when working in hybrid ways as when everyone was working in the office.

Wellbeing is also an important consideration when deciding if a meeting is really needed. During the pandemic, especially in periods of lockdowns, meetings often helped to reduce the feelings of isolation and loneliness. However, as restrictions have lifted, our lives have become busier, and the need for meetings for human interaction is potentially reducing. Meetings can impact productivity and can lead to employees having to ‘catch up’ with day-to-day work at the end of the day. People may experience ‘meeting fatigue’, which we explored in the Hybrid working: wellbeing and inclusion course.

Type of meeting

The table below captures some of the different types of meetings you might participate in. You may want to reflect on the activity earlier in the course about what type of meetings you attend. You will note for most that you can take any approach, as the best choice will depend on the purpose and those involved.

Table 5 Types of meetings
In person only Hybrid Remote
Regular 1:1 check ins   Regular 1:1 check ins
Complicated and/or sensitive conversations   Complicated and/or sensitive conversations
Regular team meetings Regular team meetings Regular team meetings
Project progress meetings Project progress meetings Project progress meetings
Planning meetings Planning meetings Planning meetings
  Presentations to large numbers of people Presentations to large numbers of people
  Unit/All company updates Unit/All company updates
Longer meetings, such as committee meetings   Longer meetings, such as committee meetings
Workshops, design and problem-solving sessions Workshops, design and problem-solving sessions Workshops, design and problem-solving sessions
Training and development   Training and development
Third-party clients/suppliers Third-party clients/suppliers Third-party clients/suppliers

Microsoft (n.d.a) suggests there are five types of hybrid meeting. Considering which work mode and collaboration experience you need, as shown in the figure below, can help you decide which approach to meetings to take.

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Figure 20 Types of hybrid meeting

Activity 24 How often do you need a meeting?

Timing: 10 minutes

Having considered the types of meetings you arrange/attend, think about the frequency of these.

Read the following article, ‘How to find the most productive meeting schedule for a team like yours’ (Keith, 2020), and use the figure below to think about the frequency of meetings you arrange or attend.

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Figure 21 Frequency of meetings

Once you have considered the purpose of meetings, you can establish if you actually require a meeting or if you need to work on a specific task. There may be an asynchronous solution to solve it, or you may need arrange a ‘working’ session using other digital tools.

In the collaboration section we explored different ways to collaborate. Often when I meet with others, either in person or virtually, it is to work on something. We may use a variety of tools to achieve the desired outcome synchronously (in live time). These are not meetings but focused activities where, rather than talking about what needs to be done, we do something. Often, we don’t even have to talk to each other: we use the tools available to us to contribute and share information asynchronously (not in live time) to progress the outcomes required.

Activity 25 What is your alternative to a meeting?

Timing: 15 minutes

HEIs are becoming more ‘digital’ and may be looking to use non-traditional tools. This article by doist, a remote organisation, provides insight into alternative ways of communication and collaboration and breaks down how they use tools in the figure below: ‘The pyramid of remote team communication tools’ (doist, n.d.)

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Figure 22 Alternatives to meetings

Think about the outcomes you often want to achieve through a meeting or actions that are required and how you else might approach this. The articles below may give you some ideas to consider. Then list approaches you can easily implement and those that may require wider engagement with others – think about the team working agreement.