Disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, economic recession, and swift transitions to remote work, the last 11 months have redefined work-life balance and how working professionals grapple with it. For employers, managing their teams effectively will be a continued key focus in 2021 as they navigate the ongoing challenges of remote work while ensuring that their employees remain engaged and empowered.
One simple way that a workplace can begin to nurture more aligned and fulfilled employees is by having longer meetings.
Longer meetings help to democratize idea-sharing. A well-structured, thoughtfully run meeting can eliminate unnecessary follow-ups and save time in the long run. But more important, longer meetings provide people with an avenue to bring their ideas to the table in a way that is comfortable for them. Such a meeting keeps people engaged and empowered, giving them the opportunity to take ownership of their jobs, including how their responsibilities contribute to a larger company objective.
Making the case for a longer meeting
While the thought of longer meetings might make your eyes glaze over, the key reasoning is how longer meetings help address the “why” of the task at hand. It gives people the extra time needed to engage in more thorough and critical discourse, which helps to ensure everyone involved knows exactly in which direction the ship is sailing and how quickly it’s moving. What results is increased long-term efficiency and greater team alignment, which subsequently trickles down into every deliverable or action required to move the project forward.
Longer meetings also account for the different ways in which people learn, process their thoughts, and engage in conversation by providing them with an inviting and less time-restrained stage to voice their ideas. The extended time frame considers both the spontaneous spitballer as well as the more introverted employee who needs a few more moments to gather their thoughts.
The benefits of a longer meeting are twofold. First, it makes clear how an idea makes it to the table in the first place, and is then funneled through the pipeline to become an actual project deliverable or outcome. Second, it boosts morale by giving team members across different work areas and roles a single-level opportunity to contribute.
Rather than the loudest voice receiving the most reception during a meeting, a meeting padded with extra time and using one idea-sharing format will make space for increased collaboration and—more often than not—will result in greater diversity of thought.
Building a system for idea-sharing
Simply extending meetings won’t be enough to democratize idea-sharing. To see a real effect on your team’s productivity and morale, you’ll need to put processes in place to ensure they remain constructive and empowering to all attendees.
First, develop a system for people to be able to bring new discussion topics, projects, or ideas to a meeting. At Shift, we use an internal tool called Build Docs, which are essentially strategy documents with fields like the objective, stakeholders involved, or target audiences that need to be completed. Not only does this tool act as a type of triage document, it also serves as a resource for those involved to review in the future.
Following this development, take a few minutes to clearly establish the why of your meeting. Why are you even taking the time to have this meeting? This will help address any confusion and answer clarifying questions that meeting attendees might have in the moment, or that could come up after the fact.
If you’re able to circulate a meeting agenda one to two days beforehand, to identify any necessary prep work for participants, this also gives team members the time and space to think about how they want to contribute. When everyone involved has a clear understanding of the meeting’s core objective and necessary tasks, they’ll be empowered to make better decisions along the way.
Encouraging more deep work, less burnout
Ultimately, longer meetings actually leave people feeling more valued, engaged, and heard. Seems too good to be true? When put in practice, longer meetings give people the time and space to voice their ideas and to develop a clear understanding of their impact on a larger scale. Moreover, lengthier meetings can mean fewer follow-up meetings or disruptive Slack messages to hammer out details unaddressed in a previous, shorter meeting.
Longer meetings also make it possible for teams to engage in valuable sessions of deep work, or periods of uninterrupted concentration, during times when they are most productive and can deliver their most inspired results. As a result, team members are empowered to take ownership of their work and their expertise, over time. This empowerment through longer meetings is critical to allowing for healthy discourse and idea-sharing, retaining top talent, and helping curb burnout.
Nadia Tatlow is the CEO of Shift, a desktop productivity hub for unifying your accounts, apps, and workflows through a single, streamlined interface.