Let’s start this post with the assumption that synchronous, face-to-face meetings are a part of how a successful organisation operates. Reaching any other position is outside of the scope of this post, although is certainly something I would like to explore separately. Great!

Back when I used to work in an office most days, I would often find myself joining meetings late because the previous one was scheduled to finish at the same time as this one started on a different floor of the building. Three or four hours of back-to-back meetings with a race from a meeting room on one floor and a meeting room on another left little room for refocusing or for comfort. It was very tiring.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when we moved to working from home full-time, I found myself grateful for losing the inter-meeting staircase dash, but I found that bonus came with its own price. Meetings that had been scheduled back-to-back, had even less of a gap than they did before - I’d exit one online video call and enter another one in the space of a couple of mouse (or Shortcat) clicks. Working from home looks more sedentary than office life for this reason and I don’t like this aspect of it.

These days I work a nice hybrid mix. About five days per month from SEEK HQ and the rest from the home office. I like this mix but that’s not the point.

So what?

Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” and meetings exhibit similar properties (so do look a lot like work). The good news is that we don’t have to allot a full hour or a half-hour to every meeting. I like to schedule meetings for 25 minutes or 50 minutes depending on how much material there is to cover; that way I give all attendees the gift of a short break before our next event so that we can stand up, stretch, walk around, focus on something other than a computer screen, rehydrate and maybe even find their next meeting room.

Research from Microsoft shows that Your Brain Needs Breaks and Microsoft have responded to this with functionality that allows us to make all of our events shorter.

I enabled similar functionality some years ago, I think when Google first introduced “Speedy Meetings” in their workplace calendars and haven’t looked back. I really like how Calendly allows not only to set a custom duration for meetings but also to add buffers before and after a meeting when you Customize Your Event Types.

In conclusion…

Technology is a big help here and scheduling 25 minutes for a meeting sets expectations for all attendees that there will be a break before their next one, to reduce fatigue. It’s then up to the organiser to have the discipline to end on time.

Why not try this with your meetings in February and let me know how it affects your energy levels? I’d love to hear from you!