Time for another meeting. Great!

Hipster business teamwork brainstorming planning meeting concept, people sitting around the table with white paper shaped like dialog cloud

So far this week it seems to have been nothing but back-to-back meetings in the ‘office’ for me, to such an extent, I don’t think I’ve actually done any proper work yet!

Over the years I’ve worked for organisations of various sizes including a small micro-businesses of less than 10 people, through to a multinational with over 100,000 staff. My current paymasters are a large company with several thousand employees and partners, I’ve been with them for several years now and it’s fair to say that like most large organisations, they do like their meetings.

Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings the better.

Peter Drucker

Now don’t get me wrong, I do see the need for meetings in any organisation: they’re a way of disseminating information en mass to a group of people and getting immediate feedback, they can be part of a creative process – brainstorming ideas etc, they can be part of a collective decision making process or they can be a tool for team building, making people feel involved and valued. The cynics amongst you may even suggest they are a management tool for controlling people.

On that latter point, you might very well think that – I couldn’t possibly comment.

So generally speaking, I suppose, meetings do have a purpose.

Turn Your Camera On!

My colleagues and I have been working from home since March last year because of lockdown and despite Freedom Day landing last Monday here in England, the remit has come out at Work that our working-from-home (WFH) arrangement will continue until the Autumn when a phased return looks likely.

So meetings, like the ones I’ve had this week, will still continue over Microsoft Teams for some time yet to come.

‘Teams Meets’ can have their benefits. For example I do like their ease of entry and exit. By this I mean, with a few clicks you’re into the meeting and once inside, there tends to be little chit-chat beforehand due to the constraints of the platform. Similar when it’s time to go – click, ended. Incidentally why do people wave at the end of such meetings?

In the physical world of meetings, they can often start late as people use the first 15 minutes or so, to catch-up on office gossip and depending how well they are controlled, can be prone to off-topic discussions rendering an overrun. Within a Teams Meet, again due to the nature of the system, it’s harder to talk over someone or go off topic and as such, meetings ‘mostly’ stick to time. I just wish people would turn their cameras on. For some reason, largely vanity related I’d say, people on Teams Meets in our division keep them turned off. You wouldn’t sit in a meeting back in the office with a bag on your head, so why do it virtually? It really pisses me off!

No Time to Pee

The downsides of Teams Meets, or any of the other virtual meeting platforms – Zoom for example, is that it’s easy for others to schedule them into your calendar as there’s no need to find and book a meeting room, arrange refreshments, bring in the biscuits etc. Because of that, back-to-back Team Meets are common in my calendar and like any meeting can be draining, especially in this heat!

Back in the physical world there was always time to go for a drink refill and pee break between meetings, not to mention the physical effort of having to get up and walk to another room or perhaps another building – there are several on the complex where my office is.

As a point of order, when I do get back into the office for meetings, I think I’ll wave to everyone as I leave!

Distant Virtual Meeting Concept. Diverse business people making online video call with colleagues, sitting at desk in boardroom, waving hands at tv screen at office, talking on web with remote workers

The Future Format

The working landscape of how white-collar workers like me has changed permanently thanks to lockdown and the rise of technology such Microsoft Teams, Zoom and webinar platforms. Many organisations, my employer included, are looking at the hybrid working model – part home working, part in the office. That’s fine by me as I’ve previously posted about.

This model will no doubt include the continued use of Teams Meets, perhaps melded into a real-world meeting.

Imagine the scene: six people around a large table for a meeting, with a camera, interactive screen and speakers at one end of the room, allowing those WFH, to join in over Teams. I can see the concept also being applied to meetings across sites. Why drive from one side of Leeds to the other for a meeting, when it can be done over Teams? In fact taking that one step further, why waste 15 minutes walking across the car park from one building to another, when there’s Teams?

If all goes according to plan, we won’t have to ever meet anyone else in person again!

Just remember to keep your camera on and don’t forget to wave as the meeting ends I say.

Image credit: top, alotofpeople lower, Prostock-studio Licensed through Adobe Image Stock