We’ve all had those days when our calendar is so packed with meetings that we feel like nothing was accomplished by the end. It probably got even worse for you in the past two years; research shows one-on-one meetings are up a whopping 500% since the start of the pandemic. With the average professional spending half their workweek in meetings, how are we getting anything done? 

A recent The Upside article by Jessica Hicks explores how to adjust your approach to meetings to increase productivity and employee satisfaction. Whether you’re looking to improve your skills as a meeting leader or need tips on how to survive—even thrive—through a barrage of meetings, Hicks offers six strategies you can put into practice immediately.

Hicks recaps a Stanford study that confirms the nonverbal toll of videoconference meetings ("Zoom fatigue") is real but avoidable with simple self-care practices. For example, going off-camera for even 5 to 10 minutes can greatly reduce mental exhaustion. Consider making at least one call a day audio-only and if you find it distracting to look at yourself when your camera is on, trying turning off self-view. As Hicks explains, "By reducing the risk of fixating on your appearance and every gesture, you’ll not only sidestep an energy killer but also may help stave off burnout."

You also might be surprised to learn that encouraging small talk at the beginning of a meeting isn’t a waste of time. It’s actually been found to improve productivity and foster creativity on collaborative projects. Similarly, humor and laughter are not your enemy; studies have shown they can help with problem-solving and build camaraderie among teams. 

Finally, be careful of scheduling meetings that function solely as a means of checking in to make sure your direct reports are on top of their work. As Hicks says, "If your team is on top of deadlines and you still meet for the sake of meeting, you’re effectively wasting their time and causing frustration." Read Hicks's full article here.

At Twill, we've implemented some best practices around meetings, like shaving one-hour meetings down to 50 minutes so that employees have down time in between calls, and reserving a block of time on Tuesday afternoons when no internal meetings are scheduled.

We also encourage meeting organizers to share agendas ahead of time, including any materials that should be reviewed in advance, and to be thoughtful about who needs to be there by designating mandatory vs. optional attendees.

We'd love to hear from you what works for your team—tell us in the comments!