The Surprising Impact of Meeting-Free Days

Marion Steward
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Even before the pandemic, 71% of managers thought meetings were costly and unproductive. Since many companies have shifted to remote and hybrid workplace models, meetings have steadily increased in frequency and length to compensate for the loss of in-person interactions. Today’s knowledge workers typically spend more than 85% of their time in meetings, which studies show negatively affects people’s psychological, physical, and mental well-being.

Though building trust and achieving team cohesion rely on frequent, quality interactions, meetings are no longer the best way to accomplish this. As a result, many organizations, including Facebook and Atlassian, are taking a stand by adopting no-meeting days, during which people operate at their own rhythms and collaborate with others at a pace and on a schedule that is convenient, not forced.

Assessing the Effects of No-Meeting Days

We recently surveyed 76 companies, with more than 1,000 employees each and operations in more than 50 countries, that had introduced from one to five no-meeting days per week (prohibiting even one-on-one meetings) during the past 12 months. In addition, we spoke with managers and each company’s HR director to obtain executive perspectives on the approaches taken; examined data comparing employee stress levels before and after a reduction in meetings; and assessed the subsequent impact on productivity, collaboration, and engagement, using pulse surveys.

Nearly half (47%) of the companies we studied reduced meetings by 40% by introducing two no-meeting days per week. The remaining companies attempted something even more ambitious: 35% instituted three no-meeting days, and 11% implemented four. The remaining 7% eradicated meetings entirely.

The subsequent impact of introducing meeting-free days was profound, as outlined in the table below. When one no-meeting day per week was introduced, autonomy, communication, engagement, and satisfaction all improved, resulting in decreased micromanagement and stress, which caused productivity to rise.

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https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/the-surprising-impact-of-meeting-free-days/

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