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More CFOs are ditching back-to-back video meetings to curb employee burnout

November 18, 2022, 11:38 AM UTC
Shot of stressed business woman working from home on laptop looking worried, tired and overwhelmed.
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Good morning,

Employee burnout is real and can be heightened by inefficient work processes. And since hiring and retaining talent remains a top concern for CFOs, some are working toward curbing the stress levels of their team members—by also curbing daily video meetings.

This week, Gina Mastantuono, CFO of the software company ServiceNow, shared a LinkedIn post with her thoughts about research on brain wave activity, which found back-to-back video meetings increase stress levels. “Those of us working in a hybrid model feel it,” Mastantuono writes. “It’s why I changed it up and set some new guidelines for our ServiceNow finance employees.”

“Our Zoom meetings are no longer 30 or 60 minutes,” she writes. “The majority of our meetings in finance now last 20-25 minutes with a five-minute buffer to stretch and  take a mental break before the next meeting starts,” Mastantuono writes. “We’ve been at it for the last several months and see a stark difference.”

“We’ve also instituted Friday WIN (What’s Important Now) time,” she explains. “Every Friday from 1-5 p.m. (local time), everyone in finance blocks their calendars and is discouraged from having video meetings. The purpose is an intentional focus. It gives us space to catch up on reading, writing, and whatever is essential to get your job done healthily, without constant interruption.” Mastantuono added, “Listening to your employees’ feedback is pure gold.”

The last time I chatted with Xihao Hu, CFO at TD Bank in the U.S., he shared with me best practices in data storytelling. This time Hu shared his thoughts on making meetings less stressful. “I’ve read several articles and stories recently about companies encouraging employees to cancel all meetings or cut back on their meetings throughout the day,” he told me. “This has definitely sparked my interest and influenced my way of thinking.” As a company, TD has encouraged employees to hold 20-to-25-minute meetings vs. 30-minute time blocks, and “We practice well-being by taking screen breaks or walking meetings,” Hu says. 

Regarding employee engagement, TD’s “Training Days,” which include a full day of workshops and panel discussions, “gives employees the flexibility to dive into a variety of interesting topics mapped to their career development or areas of interest,” Hu says. “We block out the calendars well in advance to avoid meeting conflicts on Training Days,” he says. 

Hu also told me what he does personally to combat burnout. “As a leader, it’s important that I practice what I preach because everyone needs support from leadership when finding work-life balance,” he explains. “I block ‘me’ time in the calendar where I enjoy spending time with my parents or watching soccer. I also share how I spend my time through open, honest, and frequent communication with my entire team. It starts at the top and creates a positive ripple effect which hopefully helps avoid meeting fatigue.”

I asked Alka Tandan, CFO at tech company Gainsight, her thoughts about video meetings. “We’re very aware that our remote-first workplace can easily lead to virtual meeting fatigue,” Tandan told me. Gainsight makes use of the “speedy meetings” setting in Google Calendar, which “limits meetings to 25 or 50 minutes and helps us avoid back-to-back calls when possible,” she says. Tandan encourages department leaders to identify certain days of the week that are “focus days” where internal departmental meetings are discouraged, she says. “It gives us the time and energy to focus on getting work done and forces us to ask if a meeting is truly necessary to accomplish our goals,” she explains. “We still meet externally with other departments, vendors, or customers.”

“Gainsight has strict rules on weekend emails,” she says. “We ask employees to try and avoid work emails on Saturdays so everyone can take some well-deserved time off.” And in addition to regular unlimited PTO, weekends and public holidays, employees get an extra day off each month called “Recharge Days.”

Chalk time and meeting management up to yet another line item CFOs are having to become experts at balancing.


Try to unplug and have a good weekend.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

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Big deal

The 2022 U.S. Bank CFO Insights Report, gauges the priorities of finance leaders as they navigate uncertain times. Regarding inflation risks, the top practices are identifying opportunities to cut costs (57%), evaluating the credit risk of major customers (35%), evaluating working capital practices (32%), and pricing (32%). However, CFOs surveyed view the talent shortage as the top risk, more so than high inflation, according to the report. Ways finance leaders plan to cut costs include investing in technology, discontinuing low-margin/low-growth business lines, and outsourcing certain business functions. The results are based on a survey of 750 senior finance leaders who work in U.S. businesses across multiple sectors.

Courtesy of U.S. Bank

Going deeper

Here are a few weekend reads:

A crypto security CEO did business with Sam Bankman-Fried and sent a team to the Bahamas. He was shocked by the lack of interest in security controls and FTX’s grand ideas: 'Maybe we’ll buy Goldman Sachs' by Shawn Tully

3 reasons why the huge tech layoffs don’t mean a recession is around the corner, Goldman says by Prarthana Prakash

Introducing the chief remote officer: Corporate America’s response to a hybrid workforce that’s here to stay by Trey Williams

Early birds for the win. Here’s why working out before noon is key to your health by L'Oreal Thompson Payton

Leaderboard

Here's a list of some notable moves this week:

Donald R. Kimble, CFO and chief administrative officer at KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY) will retire on May 1, 2023. He will be succeeded by Clark H.I. Khayat, currently chief strategy officer. Khayat joined KeyCorp in 2012, leading corporate strategy and then serving as group head of commercial payments. He established Key's enterprise payments and fintech partnership strategies. Khayat led the company's strategy to build scale through a series of investments in capabilities such as digital and analytics as well as successful niche acquisitions, including Laurel Road, Cain Brothers, and Pacific Crest.

Nancy Walsh was named CFO at Katapult Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: KPLT), an omnichannel point-of-sale payment platform, effective Dec. 12. Former CFO Karissa Cupito is transitioning into a senior advisory role to support the transition through the first quarter of 2023. Walsh most recently was EVP and CFO of LL Flooring Holdings, Inc., a retailer of hardwood flooring and hardwood flooring accessories. Before joining LL Flooring Holdings, Walsh was EVP and CFO of Pier 1 Imports, Inc. She has also held senior finance and risk management roles at The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., Tapestry, Inc., Viacom, and Timberland.

John Klinger was promoted to EVP and CFO at The TJX Companies, Inc. (NYSE: TJX), an off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions, effective Jan. 29, 2023. Klinger joined TJX in 2000 as a manager of business analysis at Marmaxx. He held various finance positions within HomeGoods and Marmaxx before being promoted to VP, divisional CFO for AJWright. Klinger then held the positions of VP of corporate finance and SVP, divisional CFO, TJX Europe. He later became EVP and corporate controller. 

Andrew Murphy was promoted to CFO at Duos Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Duos Technologies Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: DUOT), effective Nov. 15. Since 2020, Murphy has served as VP of finance at Duos. Before joining Duos, Murphy held progressively senior finance roles within APR Energy. Before his time with APR, Murphy worked in corporate and public accounting with a focus on tax and business services.

Donald C. Templin was named EVP and CFO at Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), a health, wealth, and investment company. Templin most recently served as EVP and CFO of Marathon Petroleum Corp. He also served as CFO of MPLX LP, a diversified, large-cap master limited partnership formed by Marathon Petroleum. Before joining Marathon Petroleum in 2011, he held several roles at PwC, including serving as a partner at the firm.

Jason Conley was promoted to CFO at Roper Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: ROP), a producer of engineered products for global niche markets, effective Feb. 1, 2023. Conley will succeed Rob Crisci as EVP and CFO. Conley, 47, is currently VP and chief accounting officer at Roper. He joined the company in 2006 as head of financial planning and analysis and investor relations. Conley also served as SVP of finance and HR at Roper's Managed Health Care Associates business. 

Overheard

"Our annual planning process extends into the new year, which means there will be more role reductions as leaders continue to make adjustments. Those decisions will be shared with impacted employees and organizations early in 2023."

—Amazon CEO Andy Jassy wrote in a memo to workers on Thursday that the company will continue to lay off employees in the coming year, CNBC reported.

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