By Ned Rockson and Rico Hodges-Smikle
Meetings, meetings, meetings. Ask the average remote worker right now what most of their time is consumed by and that will likely be their answer. Don't believe us? Asana's Anatomy of Work Index interviewed over 10,000 global workers across Australia, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, U.K., and the U.S. and found that 60% of their time is spent on Work about Work.
This is made up of things like checking email, searching for documents and files, and the largest time sink of them all - you guessed it - meetings. Because of this workers only spend 27% of their time on skills-based tasks, i.e. what they're trained and hired to do. To put that into perspective, that's the equivalent of working a full day Monday and being done before lunchtime on Tuesday.
Only 27% of time is spent doing actual work
How did we get here
27% seems staggeringly low, right? Between a global pandemic, nation-wide lockdowns, and everything else going on in 2020, there has been a huge increase in video calling across companies in every industry. In fact, the National Bureau of Economic Research has reported a 12.9% rise nationwide in the number of meetings across North America, the EU, and the Middle East, with that number likely much higher in tech companies.
The Result? While well-intentioned, all of this has culminated in Zoom Fatigue. Reports of Zoom fatigue started as early as March, and as more people have come to understand the phenomenon we've learned that it not only heavily taxes our psyches but is also adding to a rapid rise in employee burn out. Regardless of your meeting platform of choice, the result is we have a global population of teams trying their best to stay efficient and connected, but having the exact opposite happen.
And the trend seems to have yet to plateau. Between March and April, the Microsoft Teams platform alone saw a +200% increase in daily meeting minutes from 900 million minutes in one day to over 2.7 billion minutes. All of the other major video calling platforms like Google Meet and Zoom reported similar increases, and the rise is continuing as more teams shift to remote working.
Why does it happen
As companies adjust to distributed working and also aim to keep morale high and stop their employees from feeling isolated, more and more meeting types have begun to appear in our calendars such as happy hour calls, catch up coffees, and morning check-ins.
All of these have been stacked on top of all regular meetings we have, plus the extra meetings that try to replace walking over to a colleague's desk leading to days full to the brim of back-to-back meetings for most. These latter 'unexpected meetings' are 36% of the reason people stay late at work.
Why is it so hard on us?
It's not just the increase in time spent in meetings, but their format that adds to the cognitive burden. Gianpiero Petriglieri, associate professor at Insead lays out exactly why video calls take such a toll on us:
Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. Our minds are together when our bodies feel we're not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally.
This is not to say that meetings are all bad. Some meetings are necessary and certain formats like 1-to-1's are a great use of time, helping with career development and in-depth decision making. Some meetings still have their place. However, the Asana Index shows that on average people report that 2/3 of meetings are unnecessary, which means we are losing countless hours every year in pointless meetings. This matches up with our in-house research to a tee. What's the real culprit here?
2/3 of meetings are unnecessary
Meetings are being over-used and miss-used
The overuse of meetings is part of their misuse. In most organizations meetings are used for everything from being the main form of social interaction to the only avenue for decision making. However, meetings are a poor tool for many of the roles that they fill and often waste the precious time of their participants.
Let's look at a type of meeting that is considered of the utmost importance but often a waste of time for most participating - a meeting focused on information dissemination like your company's Weekly Metrics Meeting.
The goal of these meetings are:
☑️ Update everyone on status of the project
☑️ Make sure everyone has the relevant information
☑️Everyone knows the meeting decisions and how it impacts their work
Simple enough, then why are these meetings unnecessary for most?
For starters, for this type of meeting, we over-index the importance of having certain people on a call. Let's say we have a 10 person meeting. Chances are only 3-4 people on the call that are truly necessary to make decisions and share their insights. The other 6 aren't there to contribute but only listen to those insights and decisions, so ultimately they're sitting through 1 hour of other people talking to hear 3 minutes worth of relevant information.
Those 6 workers are spending that meeting time doing the following:
❌ Baring through it - spending mental effort to stay engaged with the meeting when that effort would be better spent elsewhere
❌ Multi-tasking - splitting their attention between the meeting and their work, giving neither the necessary effort to be worthwhile.
❌ Not attending - which results in missed meeting outcomes or having to be in another meeting where someone catches you up.
Each of these scenarios fail to meet the goals of that meeting, and chances are you have done this yourself at some point.
How to fix it?
This is where Debrief comes in! Created to solve this exact problem, Debrief allows your team to create short, succinct video debriefs with the goal of giving back those 57 minutes to your workers who definitely need them.
Using the Debrief platform, meeting leads can easily create a 2-3 minute video that summarizes the key points and resulting action items from their meetings and easily share them with teammates. Videos are a far richer format for communication and demos than traditional meeting notes, and by keeping the Debriefs short users are far more inclined to watch them.
On top of that, each Debrief comes with a transcription of the video, allowing users to easy search for and organize the information that is more relevant to them.