Can mandated no-meeting days at work help your office's productivity?

Can Mandated No-Meeting Days Help Your Office's Productivity?

Posted August 14, 2015 by Jacob Donelly in Managing Your Team
One way to have productive meetings is to implement a policy of No-Meeting Days. But are they just a bandaid for a bigger problem?

I hate meetings.

There is a common misconception in the work place that people in meetings are getting work done. The idea is that by sitting around a table and discussing plans of action, work can be approached more efficiently and clearly.

But many meetings aren't as productive as they're intended to be. 

And that waste of time is interfering in how much money businesses can make in profit. According to Research Digest, there is $37 billion in yearly salary cost for wasted meetings for U.S. businesses. Imagine what your business could do with a little chunk of that $37 billion.

Fortunately, there's an important way to get around this.

Implement No-Meeting Days

One way that many companies have found success in having meetings while also getting work done is to implement one “No-Meeting Day” each week. What this basically means is that no one in the company can create a meeting on that day of the week.

For example, Asana has a No-Meeting Wednesday. Because employees have what Asana refers to as time for “head down” work, they have found that more tasks get done and the employees are far more productive. However, Asana is not the only company that has done this.

In a Quora thread, different people offered their perspective on how the implementation of these days helped them or didn’t help them.

“There's an exponential ramp up into a good flow, but frequent meetings stop that ramp up before it builds up a meaningful amount,” said Costya Perepelitsa, an engineer at Google, using two graphics to share his happiness and dissatisfaction depending on what day it was.

Where No-Meeting Days Fail

The problem with these sorts of work productivity hacks is that the meetings that would take place on that day are just pushed to a different day. For example, if an employee that normally has two meetings a day implements this strategy, they would have to find a place for those two missed meetings. This could result in even more impact on workflow.

“Sometimes taking a day out of your meeting calendar will just add more meetings on to the other days, as that philosophy is more of a Band-Aid solution to a much bigger issue,” said Stephen Weber of in the Quora thread.

In essence, if your business overly relies on meetings, no work productivity hacks will help. What you need to do is get to the root of the problem, which is a dysfunctional meeting strategy. Fortunately, there are ways to fix this.

Good Meeting Strategies

There are ways that you can have productive meetings so that you are not interfering in workflow. Here are a few tips:

  • Use the Jeff Bezos strategy: If two pizzas are not enough food to feed the people in the meeting, you have too many people. I like to eat at least two slices of pizza; therefore, if each person is the same way, the maximum number of people is eight.
  • Meeting Boss: There needs to be a person who is in charge of the meeting. That person is meant to drive the meeting toward the desired outcome and, if things go astray, to get the conversation back on track.
  • Be an agenda champion like Sheryl Sandberg: Sandberg creates an agenda of what needs to be done in the meeting and as one point is finished, she moves to the next. When the entire agenda is done, she rips it up and throws it away. Most importantly, if the time allotted for the meeting is an hour and she gets through the agenda in ten minutes, the meeting is adjourned. Get back to work!
  • Send Notes: When the meeting is done, as the meeting leader, you need to send notes to everyone that includes the deliverables for each person.
  • Use E-mail: I have a colleague that thinks meetings are a great way of getting people to feel shamed into getting their work done. I disagree with this. If your employees are accountable, just e-mail them what needs getting done rather than calling a meeting to review deliverables.
  • We've also discussed more tips around making unavoidable meetings more efficient here.

At the end of the day, meetings are necessary. I spend more time in them than I would like, but it comes with the territory. That being said, I don’t invite anyone to the meeting that doesn’t belong, I always have an agenda, and I send follow up notes. This has led to more things getting done from my meetings. However, there are some days when there are so many meetings that I never actually get anything done. It’s an unfortunate reality.

Implementing No-Meeting Days can help solve these problems, but that’s just step one. You also need to modify the culture of your business where you don’t need to have the entire company in meetings about every little thing. If you do that, you’ll find you’re taking a small chunk of that $37 billion in wasted salary each year.

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This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.