‘Productivity-sapping vampires’: How to improve the hybrid-meetings culture

In theory, hybrid working is perfect, promising flexibility, convenience and empowerment. However, in practice, many organizations are finding, to their horror, it can be the worst of both in-person and remote working. Its logistical complexity has the potential to restrict collaboration and, ultimately, productivity. And that is largely down to the number and inefficiency of hybrid meetings.

“Employees are overwhelmed with meetings — back-to-back meetings, poorly run meetings and just flat-out too many meetings,” said J. P. Gownder, vp and principal analyst at Forrester Research, and co-author of a new report, “Master Hybrid Meetings With These Five Steps.” “Today’s hybrid meetings fail in-person participants, fail remote participants, still, fail to provide social cues, and fail the business.”

Gownder cited Harvard Business Review data from last year that found that 92% of employees considered meetings costly and unproductive, as 70% of meetings kept employees from productive task work. 

It wasn’t like this before the coronavirus crisis, though. “The frequency of meetings increased by 13% during the first year of the pandemic, and leaders tell us those meetings were sticky — they never fell off of calendars,” Gownder said. Without taking steps to remedy this problem, “meetings threaten to become productivity-sapping energy vampires,” he added.

So what should be done?

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in March 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Are metaverse meetings the answer to engaging hybrid workers?

Meetings culture for hybrid workers is broken, according to recent reports and analyses. Some 43% of 31,000 workers polled from across 31 countries by Microsoft earlier this year said they don’t feel included in meetings. Some organizations are turning to the metaverse to make meetings more engaging. But can that really be the answer long term?

Despite its current low level of capability, numerous organizations have embraced the metaverse for meetings and not just for novelty value. One such business is Battenhall, which has created working spaces for employees in Meta’s Horizon Workrooms — a virtual reality meeting space it has developed — and an online game platform Roblox. “Meetings are one of the things that [the metaverse] is particularly useful for right now,” said London-based founder and CEO Drew Benvie.

For the last ten months, Benvie has used weekly team meetings in the metaverse. “Staff members reported that it increases feelings of togetherness for those working from home over traditional phone calls or video meetings,” he said. “While the metaverse is generally considered to be in its infancy … it makes Zoom calls feel prehistoric.”

Moreover, it’s what many workers want, especially younger cohorts. So finds Owl Labs’ new State of Hybrid Work report, which polled over 2,000 full-time U.K. employees. Indeed, 42% of 18- to 24-year-olds said they want an office metaverse, and a further 23% would be keen to work in VR. 

However, plenty of skeptics lurk. “I don’t think the metaverse will solve any of the issues [around engaging remote workers],” said Ariel Camus, founder and CEO of Microverse, a school that trains software engineers. “In fact, I think it will create new problems because there are new technological barriers for people to join and participate as equals in meetings.”

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in October 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Broken meetings culture is causing people to switch off, literally

It was only a matter of time. The endless meetings cycles that have become embedded in the working cultures of so many organizations across industries have escalated to the point where people are simply tuning out during them.

And with so many meetings still taking place on video, rather than in-person, a large number of people don’t think they need to be in them at all – which is leading to mass disengagement, according to some workplace sources.

A whopping 43% of 31,000 workers, polled from across 31 countries by Microsoft, said they don’t feel included in meetings. 

“Meeting culture is broken, and it’s having a significant impact on employee productivity and business efficiency,” said Sam Liang, CEO and co-founder of Otter.ai, a California-based software company that uses artificial intelligence to convert speech to text.

A recent Otter.ai study revealed that, on average, workers spend one-third of their time in meetings, 31% of which are considered unnecessary. But employers continue to plow ahead without changing these embedded structures.

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in October 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Neutral ground: Why offsite meetings will be the norm for hybrid workforces

Forget in-office or virtual meetings: The majority of collaborative-working tasks will take place at off-site venues in future.

That’s because offsites offer something offices don’t — neutral ground for employees who don’t want to work continuously from an office, but also don’t want to be entirely remote, according to Alexia Cambon, a director in management consultancy Gartner’s HR practice.

The feeling of being monitored in an office by technology or a manager creates tension and means the employee does not feel comfortable. Indeed, only 14% of 2,336 hybrid and remote employees surveyed in Gartner’s Culture in a Hybrid World report, published in May, said that they can be themselves the most when working alone, but in an office. Meanwhile, 52% preferred working solo, asynchronously, and away from colleagues.

Hence, offsite meet-ups are a good middle ground. “When you remove employees from the employer-controlled environment and put them in a third space, this neutral space, a lot of interesting things can start to happen,” said Cambon.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in October 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Retiring ‘Out of office’ for ‘In the office’ email sign-offs: How to avoid defaulting to video meetings when in the office

When, on April 1, Bruce Daisley, best-selling author of “The Joy of Work,” posed a provocative question on LinkedIn musing whether “the ‘in the office’ message [will] replace the ‘out of office’” it was no foolish whimsy. 

As he explained: “Heard a brilliant thing today. One firm says they don’t want workers in the office spending all day on email. The suggestion is that everyone put their ‘in the office’ message on and deal with email from home.”

The former vp of Twitter for Europe, Middle East and Africa later told WorkLife that his comment came after hearing complaints from numerous firms that employees are heading into the office only to spend all day on video conferencing calls.

“Throughout the pandemic, the number of meetings in our diaries has doubled, and those meetings have stuck, like knotweed,” he said. “We’ve spent two years reflecting on the best way to get our work done, and then we’ve sleepwalked into a horrible solution.”

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in April 2022 – to continue reading please click here.