Why meetings are an obstacle to client success
While meetings have dominated our calendars for some time, squeezing energy from already hard-working team members, the world’s switch to working from home has escalated the issue. Research by Reclaim.ai indicates that the average professional has an additional 5.9 meetings on their calendar each week since lockdowns began.
Working from home should offer more flexibility, but we’re spending more time than ever in meetings.
One of the biggest culprits?
Knowledge workers are unintentionally being inconsiderate of their colleagues’ time.
Picture this. One of your team members has a full calendar. She started with an onboarding meeting in the morning, had fifteen minutes to check emails and other correspondence, then jumped straight into a monthly planning meeting.
After that monthly planning meeting, she set aside an hour to get some work done before diving into three more meetings at the end of her day. She decides to quickly check Slack messages first.
Another teammate has a question and sees that his colleague is online. He pings her to “hop on a call real quick” so they can go over some details for a client.
This meeting about client details pushes the first team member’s chance to work on her own tasks back, and before she knows it, she’s off to her next meeting.
Not only is this impacting her ability to lighten her task load for the day, it’s also affecting her stress levels and mental health. If the constant meeting interruptions keep up, she might suffer from Zoom fatigue, which could further impact her ability to get work done.
In fact, 56% of employees surveyed reported that these swamped calendars are negatively impacting their job performance.
Endless ad hoc meetings and calendar-full days are keeping team members from getting work done for your agency’s clients.
How are your teams supposed to deliver a stellar client experience if they’re exhausted from hours of wasteful meetings?
How 97% of BLASTmedia’s employees managed to reduce time in meetings down to less than five hours
Salesforce tested canceling all meetings for a week to see how it impacted their workday and if they could find better ways to communicate across the organization.
Instead, they held an “async week” and turned all communication asynchronous, resulting in:
- 81% of their team requesting async weeks at least once per quarter
- 72% of employees reporting increased productivity
- 20% of participants enjoying reduced working hours
After reading about Salesforce’s success, BLASTmedia wanted to give it a try. They figured if Salesforce could work it out for all 23,000 of their employees, BLASTmedia could surely do it with 70.
They turned their quarterly planning week into their trial async week as that’s typically when they need to focus on deep work.
Their VP of PR, Grace Williams, had this to say:
“Canceling all meetings (both external and internal) would give us a chance to get reports done early, ease our Zoom fatigue, free up some brain space for creative thinking, and try out some new asynchronous communication tools we had been eyeing, like Yac.”
And we can’t say we’re surprised.
With Yac, you can start an asynchronous meeting with a voice or screen share and continue with your important tasks. While you focus, your colleagues can respond to your Yac in their own time. No need to sit in a Zoom call while they frantically conjure up a quick (potentially incomplete) response.
In any given week, 62% of BLASTmedia’s team had 6–10 hours of meetings, and 16% were in meetings for 10-15 hours. During their meeting-free week, 97% of those employees were able to cut down meeting time to five hours or less.
That’s a feat unto itself, but the productivity improvements of that no-meetings week were even better. Their workload was more manageable, they discovered meetings they could cancel indefinitely and communicate asynchronously instead, and more:
92% of their team wants to do more no-meetings weeks throughout the year, and they saw positive feedback from their team that they had more time to think, were more productive, less stressed, and felt refreshed.
With Yac and other communication tools, your team can see these same results. Let’s dive into how async can work for your agency.
Getting asynchronous: Start with the end in mind
If you’re interested in trying out asynchronous communication for yourself, you need to first figure out how much time your team spends in meetings. BLASTmedia did this with a company-wide poll.
Start by reaching out to each of your team managers to get an idea of their team’s meeting load. To avoid setting yet another meeting with each manager to learn about their meetings, here are a few tools you can use to poll your people asynchronously:
- Yac. Send your questions in a voice message or screen share. Request feedback via voice or link to a document in Yac.
- Polly (for Slack). Add multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions for employees to complete in their Slack DMs.
- Typeform. Customize your survey, add logic flows based on answers, and get advanced insights into your teams’ meeting habits.
What to ask in your meeting audit poll
Find out how many are external meetings (with clients, suppliers, etc.) versus internal meetings (with members of your agency). Learn about meeting cadences and how often these meetings are happening (e.g., weekly, monthly, ad hoc).
Ask questions like:
- How many meetings per week do you have on average?
- How many meetings are external? And how long are they?
- How many meetings are internal? And how long are they?
- On average, how long are your meetings?
- Are there any meetings you feel you don’t need to attend in real time?
- Which meetings do you feel should be in real time? Why do you think they should be in real time? And how often do you think you need to have these meetings?
Be prepared for a lot of qualitative data. To make sense of this information, begin with your goals in mind.
If you’re working toward a four-day work week, you’ll need to see how you can cut employee hours down to 32-hours per week.
If you’re trying to improve employee mental health, include questions about which meetings they feel impede on their time the most and which meetings they feel most anxious about.
Or perhaps you’re hoping for similar results to BLASTmedia, looking to cut meetings down to no more than five hours per week. Then you’ll want to look ruthlessly at your meetings and move all non-urgent and non-relationship-building meetings to asynchronous methods.
Whatever your goals, bear them in mind as you analyze where you are now and create a pilot program to reduce your time spent in meetings.
Creating processes and running a pilot program
Another key to success, as we mentioned, is putting the right processes in place so that your team can transition to a more asynchronous culture and achieve your goals, like the four-day work week.
One issue that some Salesforce teams faced was how to run their daily standups asynchronously. Instead of a synchronous meeting each morning, they updated the team via Slack by 8 a.m. The teams then had two hours to provide feedback.
In real-time standups, the team would get feedback within 15 minutes. However, leaders struggled to deal with some responses taking up to two hours to come in.
You can easily fix roadblocks like this with the right tools and teamwide communication guidelines.
For example, suppose your team takes advantage of Yac’s voice messaging. Daily standups can be completed easily with only minutes of your team’s time being used up to create their voice recording and share it within your designated standup discussion group.
This does, however, require a mindset shift from leaders (which we’ll touch on in a minute).
Asynchronous communication can help your team get more done; you just have to create the right processes, so your team knows how to communicate better.
Start with a pilot program for your async transition. This will help you work out any kinks and understand where your team might be struggling as they adjust to this new concept.
Your first step is to gauge how many meetings your team needs to whittle down in order to give them more time throughout their days. Some might get canceled altogether, while others may move to async.
[Company’s] asynchronous communication guidelines
Be upfront with your team about how they should communicate and what tools are at their disposal. Document your process and share it across your organization.
Once you dive into your pilot, you’ll want to interview your team leaders and see how each department is faring with this new communication style. To know if async is working, you’ll want to look at a few key metrics:
- How much time your team is spending in meetings
- If they’re still able to properly communicate with co-workers
- If they’re able to complete more work—potentially in fewer hours
- If Zoom fatigue is lifting
- If your clients are still happy with your agency’s services and communication
While many of these metrics are more qualitative, and therefore take time to analyze, it’s still important to ensure that your team is becoming more productive and their output is increasing.
Because async is designed to put more hours in your days, there should be a significant increase in the amount of work each team member can complete in a week.
Remote comms starts with the right tech stack
In order for async communication to work and for your teams to stay productive, you need access to the right tools. Investing in the best tech stack for your team will ensure success.
There are four main jobs to be done when communicating and collaborating with team members, all of which can be done remotely and asynchronously.
1. Async meetings
One of the biggest pros about meetings that things like email and Slack can’t replace is the ability to convey tone and nuance through voice communication.
This is why Yac is the ultimate tool for asynchronous meetings.
With Yac, you can create voice recordings that allow you to discuss just about anything without having to “hop on a call” to hash it out.
Yac’s software allows teams to create different discussion groups where they can record voice messages concerning specific tasks, team projects, or even clients. A transcription will also appear alongside the recording for easy skimming.
Furthermore, Yac also offers screen-sharing capabilities. This means your team can record asynchronous presentations and create screen-sharing videos with async feedback on a design, article, task, etc.
Plus, Yacs can be shared externally via link-sharing. So if you’re holding an asynchronous meeting with a documented agenda in Google or Notion, you can share a link to a specific response with someone outside of the discussion channel—they don’t even have to be a participant!
2. Project planning
When doing client work, you’re likely planning a month or quarter ahead of time to ensure you’re providing all contracted deliverables on time. While many planning meetings are done in real-time, it doesn’t have to be this way. This is especially true if you have team members and clients working across time zones.
Instead, you can use a whiteboard tool like Miro to create a virtual room that each account manager can pop into and offer their feedback and ideas for the upcoming period. Team members can create virtual presentations, flowcharts, mockups, and annotations.
You can also use digital sticky notes to vote on ideas and initiatives.
3. Project management
Once the project planning phase has been completed, it’s time to load each task into your project management tool.
Project management tools like Trello enable you to create checklists and assign different parts of a task to different team members. These tools also often include commenting or messaging features so that each team member can drop comments and tag each other to get extra information or feedback for their piece of the project.
Trello is a project management tool that allows teams to collaborate on various tasks. With a Kanban board style interface, team members can create cards for projects, assign tasks, and move the card along each list as it progresses.
This is a great tool for people who like to track work visually and who don’t want a steep learning curve. It’s super simple to use and easy to customize. They even give you plenty of templates for different projects to help you get started quickly.
Tools like this are perfect for asynchronous collaboration as they ensure that questions are applied to specific tasks or projects, so each team member knows exactly what you’re referring to.
4. Async communication
Efficient teams need to be able to communicate. But there should also be healthy parameters put in place surrounding response times. With async, let your team dictate when they want to be checking their communication channels so that it works with their day-to-day schedule.
One advantage Slack has is that your colleagues can set their availability status and customize it as necessary. This includes turning notifications off!
If you start to draft a message to a colleague but see their status set to “at the gym until 2:45 p.m.”, you can leave them a message without expecting an immediate response or even schedule a message to send at a time of your choosing.
Taking an asynchronous approach to client comms
With your team shifting to async, how do you handle client communication, especially if they’re used to regular update meetings with their account managers?
You can keep some meetings sync (such as client onboarding meetings), or you can make the switch to async and get your clients on board.
First, be transparent about the transition. Let your clients know that you’ll be defaulting to an async-first communication strategy and walk them through how this will impact their communication with you.
Share your team’s recommended communication apps. Let clients know that they can expect video and audio clips that their account manager creates with Yac for in-depth communication or a simple email for information sharing that doesn’t require a response.
Also, be sure to include guidelines on when clients can expect to hear back from their point of contact—and that it won’t be instantaneous.
As long as you make clients aware of your updated communication standards, you’ll have no issue continuing as an asynchronous organization.
That being said, you can always test a model where clients pay extra for your time for certain synchronous communication formats, while async is automatically bundled into the service. This provides an incentive for clients to adopt your asynchronous preference while still allowing them to purchase real-time meetings when necessary.
Meeting loads have exploded since the start of the pandemic. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
By putting async processes in place, you can transform the way your team communicates, putting hours back into their day so they can focus on valuable work that impacts your agency’s bottom line.
However, it’s important to have the right tools in place to ensure your asynchronous communication is still as effective as your meetings may have been. Get started with Yac to see how we can help revolutionize the way your team works and communicates.