Most school districts are moving into their standardized testing period. After that, the school year will begin to wind down. Most schools are planning to return to a semi-normal state of existence next year. Much of our discourse around coronavirus has centered on how we could get back to normal and options we are ready to bring back. What about things we hope never return? For me, there is one thing that falls into this category. Unnecessary meetings.
Obviously, COVID was negative in most aspects but one of the positives is that it made people really think hard about whether or not it was really necessary to call people together. Prior to the pandemic, it seemed like people put minimal thought into having meetings, myself included. If we had something to announce that required even a little bit of Q-A, it became a meeting. Conventional wisdom at the time just said that was what you did. The worst of all the meetings is the regularly scheduled ones. Standing appointment meetings are the worst because you have them whether there is something to say or do or not. And typically, when there is nothing to say, we fill the time anyway. Every single organization I am a part of is guilty of this.
Another genre of meeting is the “make sure you are actually here meeting.” You know the ones. The meetings at the beginning of the workday to make sure people show up to work on time. The meetings at the end of the day to make sure people don’t skip out too early…the ones right after lunch, as well. I don’t blame people for those types of meetings. It is the most useful accountability tool I can come up with too. But it occurs to me that if you can’t trust someone to be here on time and stay through their whole obligation, then you should probably fire them.
COVID-19 has not eliminated all of these meetings, but it has dramatically cut down on them. There are emails I have received in the last few months that I KNOW would have been entire meetings a year ago, but social distancing and people’s fears of picking up corona have kept people from scheduling in-person contact. Shouldn’t that be the way it always is?
I understand why bosses would not want to trust too much to email. Some people are notoriously bad at checking them, but they can do it. I notice that the teacher who never checks their email always seems to get the memo when school is canceled.
Unfortunately, COVID has brought a new danger to the meeting structure, too…the Zoom-meeting. There was a magical period right when the pandemic started when we communicated via email unless absolutely necessary. Then people learned to use Zoom. I prefer a video conference to meeting in-person, but the minimal friction to scheduling a video conference has made the frequency of zoom meetings approach the level of in-person meetings prior to the pandemic. Worst still, every boss in America must have read the same blog post about making people turn their cameras on. Now we all have to do that awkward wave when the meeting is over which is something I refuse to get used to.
At any rate, the full communication potential of email is known; we should not try and put the genie back in the bottle. Normalize your employees checking their email every day and save time by cutting meetings.