As a remote company with employees widely scattered across 70 countries, TheSoul Publishing, a digital studio, has teams collaborating across many time zones.
Often, just trying to set up a meeting time proved impractical. The company found that when meetings were scheduled, that led to a “hurry up and wait” situation where instead of pushing work forward, everyone stopped to wait for the meeting before taking action.
Q. What made you create this policy?
While meetings can be productive in some cases, many companies have piled on meeting after meeting since shifting to a remote model to make sure employees stay connected – and many of these can be counter-productive, or exhausting.
What we’ve learned is that forcing facetime doesn’t equate to productivity, and scheduling hours of meetings can actually be detrimental. With this in mind, our team at TheSoul Publishing decided to shift to a “no meetings” policy.
From their first week, we make sure our team members are set up for success and can work both autonomously and collaboratively.
We want people to be able to move at their own pace, work with others on a schedule that is convenient rather than forced, and be as productive and efficient as possible. The bottom line is that we found meetings were holding up timelines and providing little to no added benefit.
Q. How is productivity and collaboration managed?
Productivity is higher without meetings. Cutting out meetings empowers employees, giving them more control over their time. Rather than someone’s schedule being the boss of them, our people can truly own their to-do lists and hold themselves accountable.
Meetings often waste time and chip away at productivity. If you’re in a group meeting and you finish with 15 minutes to spare, you and your manager may begin discussing another campaign – but what about the other people who aren’t working on that campaign?
Meetings can also lose efficiency due to low attendance. Some managers may add more people than are necessary so no one feels left out, which eats away at valuable time. Also, for larger group meetings, the organizers don’t necessarily know who is attending until it kicks off, so it’s easy for employees to sit them out.
Also, as a manager, it’s important to recognize that everyone works differently – taking time for a meeting that derails someone during their most productive hour can make them lose their train of thought and impact their efficiency.
With meetings yielding little return on time investment, the opportunity cost is often too high. You want your employees to be able to work at their best, and booking them from morning until evening with meeting after meeting does not allow that to happen.
While it may seem counterintuitive, meetings can detract from effective collaboration. A meeting is not the only way to align on how to start a project; employees can find other ways to connect one-on-one at a pace that works for them — through email, tools like Slack, or via direct calls. We use cutting-edge project management tools that allow for communications specific to each project. It’s extremely efficient and takes the potential for miscommunications out of the equation.
By eliminating meetings, we’ve seen a major uptick in productivity, better collaboration, and generally, an improved employee experience.
Q. How can companies keep their culture without meetings?
Culture is not dependent on meetings, and there are different ways to foster culture.
One way to do this is by communicating your corporate culture to employees openly and directly. For example, we create video content for onboarding to help newcomers understand the corporate DNA. Sharing videos to celebrate milestones and moments can keep this alive after onboarding and can be shared via email, Slack, or through other platforms.
Creating virtual or in-person experiences where employees can engage outside of work will also help bring employees together. To find an activity your team will love, HR may consider surveying teams to understand their interest areas to make sure they are planning something the majority of people will enjoy attending.
Mentorship or learning and development programs also provide ways for employees to connect in a meaningful way. These support professional growth and show employees that a company cares about their futures and their individual careers.
The most important element for companies to consider is what makes sense for their team. Find activities to bring employees together outside of a typical meeting in a way that has the most positive impact.
Q. What are the top reasons a “no meetings” policy makes you better?
There are several reasons we believe that having a no meetings policy can make for a better company.
First, it gives employees more autonomy and helps them learn and grow professionally. Without meetings, the potential for micromanaging is lessened. People who feel valued and trusted will work harder for the company and ultimately, provide more value.
A no meetings policy also drives efficiencies, and higher productivity helps a company’s bottom line. The bottom line is key to an organization’s long-term success, so anything that can support that can help a company prosper.
Employee satisfaction is imperative, as data has shown that happy employees are more productive and loyal. If your workers are miserable, word will spread and recruiting will become more challenging too.
When we introduce this policy, newcomers usually don’t believe it’s true – so we introduce it early in the onboarding process. Many companies declare low meeting policies, but at TheSoul Publishing we closely adhere to the no meetings rule and have it in our DNA.
After the first week, we often receive feedback from new joiners about how asynchronous communication is both productive and helpful. This is why we continue this policy and we believe it really helps us stand out.
Overall, by getting rid of meetings, companies not only support efficiency, but also employee development.
For companies like ours it’s a no-brainer!
Q. What’s the biggest surprise from your no meeting policy?
Despite the fact that we’re 80% remote and do not have formal meetings, our team is quite friendly and social with one another. They are interested in each other beyond work, and seek each other out to develop relationships.
Conventional thinking suggests this wouldn’t be the case, but we’ve found those who want to connect have no problem doing so. As you would expect, those who prefer to keep their personal lives private are able to do that.
Additionally, we find communication to be clear and effective. There are rarely misunderstandings, and people can easily go back to a previous Slack conversation or a project outline to review an assignment or request. You never hear “I thought you told me…” or “I was under the impression.”
It’s all documented for review and for clarification, if it’s needed. Nothing gets lost in translation.