In early March I came across this piece on hybrid work while researching trending stories for a client. I stopped dead in my tracks when I read this statement, “Workers can’t string together enough hours in a row to focus, so they sometimes work well beyond the traditional 9-to-5 schedule, with pings and dings signaling requests coming to them from all over the internet.”
That’s us. Time confetti. Between client calls, internal meetings, status updates, weekly check-ins, 1-1s and pop-up zooms, I average around 20 meetings a week. More than half my time. So when I read about Salesforce’s trial Async Week I shot a quick note to our leadership team… “Should we try a no meetings week?” Surely if Salesforce could do it with 20,000 employees, we could do it with 70. It was a resounding yes.
We planned our no meetings week around quarterly reporting, the first week in April. Typically a heads-down week for us anyway, where we try to avoid group trainings, brainstorms, etc. Canceling all meetings (both external and internal) would give us a chance to get reports done early, ease our Zoom fatigue, free up some brain space for creative thinking, and try out some new asynchronous communication tools we had been eyeing, like Yac.
Here were the results of our trial:
- On an average week, 62% of our employees spend 6-10 hours in meetings, another 16% spend 11 – 15 hours in meetings.
- During no meetings week, 97% of our employees were able to cut their time in meetings down to 0-5 hours.
- The most common positive benefits experienced during no meetings week were, “Had more time to think,” “Increased productivity,” “Less stress,” and “Felt refreshed.”
- 57% of our employees felt like their workload during the week was more manageable than a normal week, 38% felt it was about the same.
- After no meetings week, 84% of people feel they might be able to cancel one of their ongoing meetings and work asynchronously instead.
- 92% of employees want to do another no-meetings week at some point in the year.
- The biggest challenges were, “Missed interacting socially with co-workers,” “Felt isolated,” “Struggled with understanding workload,” and “Missed collaboration with clients” — this was especially true for our new and remote employees.
Here are a few quotes from our team:
“This was life-changing, especially at the start of the quarter where I could sit down and focus on a report without interruptions. Overall I felt less anxious and chaotic jumping from meeting to meeting. The week was overall more productive than a standard meeting week. Thanks for the opportunity to try this out!”
“It was really nice to be able to get things done at a more continuous pace and not lose focus going in and out of meetings. I felt like it was extremely beneficial and something I hope we can continue.”
“Great idea! Extremely productive week! Especially with reporting / planning rounding out. Had more time to think more deeply about projects without any potential interruptions hanging over my head.”
“No-meetings week couldn’t have come at a better time. I really enjoyed this week and appreciate that we had this opportunity. I feel refreshed and ready to make the most of Q2!”
“I loved no-meetings week! I felt like I had the space to slow down a bit and really focus on what needed to get done without meetings hanging over my head. I also felt like I had a bit more autonomy on what I needed to prioritize, which helps me to feel like I’m a trusted, valued part of the team!”
“Loved it! I felt like I could actually talk to my peers at work and be able to take a break to breathe. It was very refreshing!”
As far as external feedback, it seems our clients loved getting asynchronous updates from our team through Yac. Several said they liked getting the video/audio updates, and felt like they got their meeting done in 3 minutes or less.
No meetings week for me, personally, was extremely refreshing. I ended up having 4 meetings that week — a major change in pace from my usual. And, I accomplished a handful of projects that were hanging out at the bottom of my to-do list for weeks.
Overall, our team is feeling refreshed and ready to tackle Q2. We were able to successfully collaborate asynchronously and learned a lot about what meetings we do and don’t need on an ongoing basis. Extended no-meetings blocks like this are definitely something we’ll try again on an as-needed basis. When we do, we’ll need to build in some check-ins with our new employees and remote co-workers, to make sure they’re not feeling isolated or confused about their workload.