Ginni Saraswati is the founder and CEO of Ginni Mediaco-founder of The Podcast Accelerator and host of The Ginni Show.
Another meeting, really? Few things cause more grumbling and protest in an office environment than having a calendar regularly filled with meetings. These huddles can be helpful for team bonding, communication, discussion, and creative brainstorming, but they also disrupt productivity and divert time, attention span, and motivation from focusing on and completing tasks.
According to Harvard Business Reviewwhopping 71% of managers (registration required) said they found meetings expensive and unproductive. Many have questioned the usefulness of face-to-face and even virtual meetings in the age of increasing remote workforces.
However, for companies looking to reduce the number of meetings they require from their employees, there are many alternatives that are much more productive, time-saving and morale-boosting. Here are five alternatives to face-to-face meetings you can try.
1. Brief explanation of recorded videos
Running a 100% external company in 16 different countries in the world means that my team is in different time zones than I am. We all have our own working hours, so there is limited time to cross over and sync for a meeting.
If you have notes, feedback on creative materials, or need to go through some explanations, consider using a screen recording tool like Loom. These programs allow you to record the screen while moving the mouse over the areas you want to draw attention to. When you’re done, you can send the recording as a link to your team members.
Best of all, employees can watch it at their leisure, saving them time during the workday that would otherwise have been spent watching a video together in a conference room. And if they forget and need to visit again, the link is always available to refer to.
We’ve all heard someone in the workplace jokingly say, “This meeting could have been an email,” and there’s a grain of truth in that joke. Yes, many meetings can easily be email, and while some professionals feel email is impersonal, there are definite benefits to the old tried and true email thread.
The main advantage is that everything that has been discussed and decided is recorded in writing. Billionaire Mark CubanFor example, he is recorded to prefer email to unnecessary meetings: “No meetings or phone calls unless I pick up a check. Everything is email.” That’s one way of looking at it, but there’s also the fact that email allows people to process the information and send well-formed responses.
3. Brainstorming sessions
There are a whole host of valuable options for breaking the “meeting” mold, and brainstorming sessions are one of them. Online whiteboards such as Miro or Stormboard allow collaboration anywhere, which is especially useful for remote teams. Large brainstorming sessions can be turned into real-time collaborations with digital sticky notes. All the necessary information can be combined in one space, so that anyone who needs to refer to the results of the brainstorming session can do so with the click of a button.
Creativity cannot be scheduled or forced to arrive when a meeting is in progress. Often it comes when we least expect it. In today’s technology-driven workplace, it’s not always necessary to have everyone in one place — physical or digital — to brainstorm new ideas, and these tools offer companies great alternatives to more traditional brainstorming sessions.
4. Project management software
Another digital solution is project management software that can record various aspects of meetings and organize them into tasks. Many software applications such as Asana enable collaboration, much like a face-to-face meeting.
Better yet, the software enables timelines, due dates, assignees, and dependency tasks. On these platforms, files can be stored, organized and easily accessible within the applications. Managers can create teams for different projects, assign tasks to individuals or teams and communicate with them in real time, just like in a meeting.
5. Organic communication and meetings
Many leaders rely on meetings for team building purposes. Some may believe the outdated idea that without forced meeting-based interaction, teams fall apart and therefore don’t work well together. However, bringing teams together in a more relaxed environment, such as happy hours after work or a casual conversation in the office, can lead to just as productive collaboration as a meeting. There is no agenda here!
Instead of focusing on the quantity of interactions, you shift to creating higher quality interactions. This will do more to build team cohesion and lasting, ultimately productive bonds between colleagues. A recent report from Quartz shows that not only do employees like organic gatherings like happy hours more than forced gatherings, but the former can also be good for business in general. Meetings such as happy hours and fun company outings allow connections to be made, friendships formed and relaxed conversation.
Meetings may in one form or another always have a place in business, but technology and public opinion are rapidly changing the face of the working world. By considering readily available alternatives to meetings, leaders can build a more engaged and collaborative workforce with a focus on productivity, execution, and balance.