It is not a secret that people have been burnt out and overwhelmed by meetings for many years. This is for a variety of reasons. Many of them usurp a ridiculous amount of workers’ time. Depending on the company you work for and the management style of your team, meetings are often rescheduled on various occasions. This comes to the chagrin of the staff, who then are subjected to reconfiguring their schedules around the event. And let’s not forget the number of times a team is forced to meet about the same topic, often repeating the next steps that were laid out previously because of bottlenecks in the process.

The rise of the catch-up meeting

Meetings were already heavily disliked many moons ago. In fact, recent research shows that meetings had been increasing in frequency and duration for a solid fifty years, even before the pandemic hit. That same research indicates that executives were spending over half of their workweek — averaging 23 hours per week — in meetings. When the work-from-home environment became more prevalent, a lot of company leaders became insistent on hosting even more meetings.

The cause for the increase in check-ins can be found in two management theories penned in the 1960s by social psychologist Douglas McGregor. According to him, “Theory X” managers hold a strong belief that people essentially do not enjoy the work they do, will put in the minimal effort where applicable and will slide by just for the paycheck. “Theory Y” managers maintain a more positive outlook in the workspace and hold the belief that their workers are satisfied by the work that they do. Their workers simply do the work because they believe in it, and are less motivated by finances. When McGregor established these ideas in the 1960s, workers were spending less than 10 hours a week in meetings.

The pandemic brought the “Theory X” squad out into full view. While work from home became the norm, these managers wanted to ensure that every member of their team was dedicating every moment of their day to work. CEOs felt that if they could not see their workers, no one could be sure that they were using their day productively. With the advancement in technology, people scheduled calls via CRM systems and various video call hosting platforms. This opened the floodgates and made these chats occur at a higher frequency if that’s even possible.

While the casual feel of video calls can make them feel more collaborative to some, that may not be the case for others. Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab says it best. “Videoconferencing is a good thing for remote communication, but just think about the medium – just because you can use video doesn’t mean you have to.” Video calls have helped to facilitate even more micromanagement. In some instances, it has become almost suffocating.

The benefits of a catch-up meeting

It is clear that the office meeting as we once knew it is dead. At the very least, morale around the concept is low. However, the catch-up meeting is still valuable in the workplace to some degree. So, what exactly are the benefits of a catch-up meeting?

Catch-up meetings keep the team on task

The rigmarole of each day can make a lot of work seem mundane. While it is important to prove that you are getting your own tasks completed – especially if you are in a remote or hybrid working situation – there are digital options to ensure workflows and timelines are being adhered to. Catch-up meetings should exist to keep people accountable for bigger picture items and to allow the team to present any challenges or thoughts they may have regarding a project.

Catch-up meetings keep management in the loop

A lot of the time, higher-level management and executives at a company aren’t as involved in the day-to-day grind as project managers, marketing associates, administrators, and other crucial members of the team. Historically, catch-up meetings have allowed C-Suite team members to stay abreast of the current work climate.

How to improve your catch-up meeting

If meetings are non-negotiables and still need to happen within your workspace, there must be a better way to handle them. So, what can we do to make our meetings more efficient and valuable use of everyone’s time?

1. Lower the frequency of catch-up meetings

According to Amanda Bedell, Chief Business Growth Strategist at BCC Business Consulting, respect and space to grow are endearing concepts workers yearn for in a management team. “A top skill I wish more leaders knew is to trust the people they hire and foster an environment where trying new things and ‘failing fast’ is celebrated,” she says. This can be fostered by decreasing the frequency of catch-up meetings. “If trust isn’t there, a lot of time and resources are wasted on meetings, micromanaging, redoing work, checking up on tasks, etc.”

This means that scheduling a last-minute video call should not be your go-to move. Unless someone has asked for assistance with a project that requires additional instruction or visual aid, a call or meeting should be the last thing on your mind when it comes to menial tasks. Too many people spend their day sitting on calls, being micro-managed and judged, which decreases their productivity and work potential.

With respect for everyone’s time (and patience), quarterly or even monthly options are a great way to go. These types of meetings can bring a lot to the table.

2. Stick to a solid agenda

Many office meetings tend to veer off in different directions, especially if there isn’t a set agenda. If you are organizing a meeting, be sure to incorporate a succinct outline for everyone involved. This can help reduce the amount of time in a meeting that could otherwise be used to complete tasks, create company assets and drive client communication.

If you have the opportunity to, send the agenda out in advance. That way, members of your work community are aware of what will be required of them during the meeting and can come prepared with updates and ideas that benefit everyone in a timely manner. Clarify any next steps team members need to incorporate toward the end of the meeting, so they are top of mind when you go back into your individual working environments.

3. Incorporate workplace reviews into meetings

Individual catch-up meetings are pretty important. They seem to occur much more when C-Suite members are out of the office frequently, travel for work, or hub out of a different location. Coffee shop visits, personal lunches, and lengthy boardroom agendas have all played a part in one-on-one meetups.

If you’re planning an individual catch-up event, it may be a solid time to incorporate a workplace review. Not only does this allow team members the opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns on projects and campaigns, but it allows them to prepare to receive feedback on their work as it stands within the company. Opening yourself up to these instances nurtures a positive company culture and open communication. Allowing the reviews to be mutual during your meeting ensures that both parties are open to said feedback, which allows everyone to feel heard and valued in the workplace. It also helps everyone work toward improved performance in the workplace.

Streamlining communication is integral to the modern work environment, whether you work on-site, remotely or utilize a hybrid atmosphere. Choose your company’s primary communication methods wisely, and try to keep business conversations within that space. Not only can this help reduce the amount of time spent in meetings, but it will leave you receipts of your conversations to refer back to if you have any questions or thoughts that would otherwise necessitate additional meetings. (In a past life, that is.)

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