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Here are 3 types of meetings that should be face-to-face—and 6 that are better as emails

June 29, 2022, 8:30 PM UTC
Team meetings must serve a stronger purpose than before.
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Most meetings fall under one of nine categories—status updates, debriefs, and brainstorming, to name a few. Of the nine meeting types, only three require that all employees attend at the same time, according to recently released research from Gartner. That truncated list includes presentations, team building, and command center (when teams make key decisions, often on an ad-hoc basis or in response to an external event).

Excessive team meetings can have negative consequences, tanking productivity and wasting company time and money. On the flip side, cutting back on superfluous meetings can improve engagement and output, and prevent employee burnout. As business leaders seek to combatZoom fatigue,” support employee well-being, and offer flexibility—all in an effort to drive workplace productivity—removing regularly-occurring meetings from team calendars can go a long way.

“If organizations are actually looking forward and serious about bringing down the overall burnout and stress on the employees, they can look into the work week and find out what are the meetings that actually can be transformed from synchronous, or live, to an asynchronous or blended approach,” said Tapan Upmanyu, associate principal analyst at Gartner, at the company’s Digital Workplace Summit.

Synchronous meetings are those where the presence of all employees is required at the same time; in a virtual setting this could mean everyone in a Zoom call with cameras on. Asynchronous meetings can occur via email, Slack, or utilize other collaboration tools to deliver the same outcomes as a meeting. They do not require every individual’s attendance at a specific time, nor does employee participation happen in real time. A blended approach refers to a mix of the two.

Leaders should consider axing meetings that discuss project planning and status updates, which can be shared, developed, reviewed, and edited online asynchronously, Upmanyu said. 

“Status updates in live meetings are as good as status updates in an offline mode,” he said. “So why not take it down to a co-editable document…and anyone who wants to know and understand the updates of the task going on can go into that file.”

Certain meeting types are better suited for a blended model: active work, brainstorming, debriefs, and making team decisions. They typically involve visual components such as slideshows or videos, and documentation such as meeting notes and an agenda. But they still do not require every team members’ live attendance.

“It is better to use a blended approach when the agenda’s less important points are actually discussed prior to the meeting through [asynchronous collaboration tools] and then go into the meetings” to discuss primary points and finalize decisions, Upmanyu said.

Gartner

Improving flexibility around these kinds of meetings can also allow for greater participation across geographies or work models—a top concern for HR leaders and D&I heads. Remote employees, women, and those from underrepresented groups tend to be less vocal in all-hands meetings, research shows. Allowing workers to participate asynchronously can bolster team involvement and widen the breadth of ideas sourced.

“The key to a successful collaboration and hybrid model is the ability to meet, discuss, decide and act upon agendas in an equal and frictionless manner,” Upmanyu said. “The way meetings have been conducted so far, it is certain that the remote employees actually feel a little left out…leading to friction, frustration, and dissatisfaction.”

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