TOP TIPS: How to use meetings more effectively when working in a distributed team

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 03:12 am

Productivity and creativity is being hindered through too many unnecessary meetings

Dan Hillman, Founder & CEO of Jarvo, the cloud HQ for distributed teams, has collated his top tips on using meetings more effectively when working with a distributed team. Dan defines a distributed team as one which is dispersed geographically over a wide area with some people working in an office and others working remotely.

Many companies use multiple online platforms for meetings, communication and sharing key information, which can lead to inefficiencies with Jarvo estimating that we switch between apps 1,500-2,000+ times per day. 

“When setting up a meeting, it is important to clearly define the purpose and agenda for the meeting in advance, and only invite necessary attendees. Keep it short and to the point. Attendees should be encouraged to come prepared and stick to the agenda during the meeting to help keep things succinct. 

“Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of meetings and make adjustments as necessary depending on whether the meeting is having the desired outcome. It is important to encourage employees to speak up if they feel they are not adding any value to the meeting, and have a process in place to drop out and handle such feedback. 

“Since the pandemic, unnecessary meetings have continued to filter into work life, with a lot of meetings being too long with too many attendees to be meaningful and effective. Interactions between colleagues taking 5 of 6 mins today have now become as long as 60 minute Zoom calls scheduled for next week. Before arranging a meeting, ask yourself “does it require a meeting?” Instead we should encourage ad hoc communication, which can last on average between three to six minutes, to make decisions in the moment. As a result this makes the team more productive and efficient.

“One thing I have learnt over time is that ad hoc meetings always beat recurring meetings. Treat your time and calendars as a bank balance, don’t let others steal time away from doing more productive work and even taking a break, going for a walk or meditating. Excessive meetings can have a negative impact on employee productivity and creativity, so by limiting unnecessary meetings, this can help to improve these factors. 

“My most productive and creative days are ones that aren’t filled with back-to-back meetings. Being extremely cautious with where you spend your time can have a huge impact on the level of work you produce and what you can accomplish.”

“Once you have decided if a meeting is necessary, those required to attend the meeting should be carefully selected. One of Jeff Bezos’s quotes says “No meeting should be so large that two pizza’s can’t feed the whole group”, with this in mind you should be extremely respectful of others’ time and the value you are adding to the meeting. Create a culture of making it acceptable to simply drop out of a call when not adding any value. 

“With so many tech-related companies currently cutting costs and laying off staff, we must reflect on if we are doing enough to save time. There are too many meetings, which are too long with too many attendees. We should delete or delay tasks that are not so important and instead focus on the tasks which push a business forward and add real value to the work being done.”

“Informal conversations in the office are those which are usually held outside of the meeting room. These are conversations which can help build stronger relationships and trust amongst team members, which are crucial for effective collaboration and teamwork. By having informal chats this can provide opportunities for employees to share ideas and perspectives which might not come up in formal meetings or discussions. In addition to this, these conversations can be used as an important channel for feedback and allow for open communication, which can be more difficult to achieve over Slack, Zoom and Teams as spontaneity and serendipity is lacking.

“In the modern and digital era, distributed teams may feel disconnected or isolated from colleagues due to a lack of informal conversations where you might discuss non-work topics such as how your weekend was, hobbies and general interests . By bringing these back into the virtual workplace, this can help build a sense of community and belonging. They can also be an important way to keep in touch with the company’s culture and values, whilst maintaining a sense of cohesion and alignment among team members.

“Another important reason for informal office conversation is to help break down silos and foster cross-functional collaboration by encouraging people from different teams and departments to connect with one another. Additionally, they can be used as a way for team members to share knowledge and learn from one another, which can be beneficial for personal and professional development. This can be a great way to improve employee engagement and motivation, by providing a sense of connection and camaraderie among the team.”

By using Jarvo as a business’ sole communication and collaboration platform, meeting time can be reduced from 60 minutes to just 5 minutes by creating an environment where ad hoc and informal conversations can occur online. In turn, this will reduce inefficiencies, boost productivity and harvest creativity within your business.


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