Ask an expert is our weekly column dedicated to helping readers overcome problems at work and get ahead in their careers. This week, Amantha Imber, founder of behaviour change firm Inventium, helps a reader claw back precious time from unproductive meetings.
The problem: I typically spend two hours a day on Zoom meetings that I often contribute very little to. On the few occasions I’ve asked to skip them, my manager has said it would be a shame if I didn’t join because I would no longer be in the loop on certain topics. But I think my time would be better spent on actually doing the work we need to get done to meet our project deadlines.
I find that I often have to work outside normal hours to keep on top of my workload. So, how can I get out of these meetings? What can I say to my manager to convince her that my time could be better spent elsewhere without damaging the relationship too much?
The advice: Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Imber says many of her clients at Inventium are “drowning in meetings” and have to finish their work outside their standard hours.
Her advice can be broken into two parts.
First, she recommends clarifying with your manager why you are being invited to these meetings. If it’s just to give you information, politely suggest alternative ways of getting you up to speed that don’t get in the way of your focused work.
Imber says Inventium defaults to “asynchronous communication” – or any type of communication that does not happen in real-time – for information sharing. In other words, they use emails, messages or voice notes that don’t require an immediate response.
It’s a common approach among firms that have embraced remote and hybrid working, as it allows employees to work at their own pace and at times that bring out the best in them.
“It sounds like these meetings that you’re being asked to attend are purely for information sharing or learning purposes,” Imber says.
“If those meetings are recorded, you can simply get an AI transcript [after the call] to fill you in, or you can watch the meetings at 1.5 or two times [the normal] speed, which is going to at least save you an hour a day.”
The second part of Imber’s advice involves having an honest conversation with your manager about the sacrifice you are making to attend these meetings. Make sure she understands that you are regularly working long hours to make up for lost time. She might not know. And the consequences aren’t great.
“For leaders, it’s a recipe for burnout and staff churn,” Imber says. “And if people are overworked and doing really long days, then the quality of their work is going to suffer too.”
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