There will always be those surprise meetings added to your work calendar, and those regular meetings you simply have no control over, but you probably schedule some of them too. And when you do, you should always try to do so on days you already have meetings, even though it might seem to make sense to space them out. But having at least one no-meeting day a week will actually make you more productive.
How meetings can derail workers
Research has proven, scientifically, what already felt true: Getting pulled into too many meetings sucks, for the most part. Yes, a meeting can be helpful when it comes to boosting creative thinking and fostering teamwork, but when someone is late, when they take employees away from actual work time, or when they’re mismanaged or downright unnecessary, they can also be a major waste. A study published by the Association for Psychological Science shows that meetings, “can serve to derail individual and organizational effectiveness and well-being by demanding too much of employee’s time, sometimes for little or no benefit.”
Research from Atlassian found an average employee might have 62 meetings per month, half of which are largely routine or unnecessary. Time is money, and both of those are wasted when you’re stuck in an unproductive meeting. And that can lead to dissatisfaction with your job or your ability to do it well, basically nuking your productivity and your happiness.
No-meeting days can get your productivity back on track
This is why you should consider blocking off no-meeting days on your calendar. MIT’s Sloan Management Review recently surveyed 76 large companies that have introduced “no-meeting days” to their workweeks. Some had just one no-meeting day, while others went all the way up to five no-meeting days per week (bliss!), but nearly half of them reduced meetings by 40% overall just by eliminating the possibility of having them on certain days. Even one no-meeting day resulted in increases in workers’ feelings of autonomy, effectiveness of communication, employee engagement, and job satisfaction. Frustration over micromanagement and job stress went down, and productivity increased.
How to fit no-meeting days into your week
Adding no-meeting days into your own schedule is vital in theory, but can be tricky in practice. It’s easy enough to schedule any meetings you are in charge of for days when you already have another meeting, deliberately leaving at least one day where your calendar remains altogether clear.
But for the meetings you don’t control, it can be tricky to get whoever is holding the meeting to buy in. Start by connecting with others in your organization (not in a meeting though; try an email) to determine which, if any, regular meetings can be taken care of through individualized communication like face-to-face chats, emails, or Slack messages.
The data shows that prioritizing no-meeting days—or simply participating in no meetings at all—improves productivity and job satisfaction for everyone, so don’t feel like you’re a bad worker for not corralling people into a Zoom call. They’ll actually be grateful.