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Ways of working

4 December, 2020

The world seems to be moving away from working 9-5, Monday through Friday, at our office desks. Not only has the pandemic forced us into new ways of working that may endure long after we discard our masks, but in recent years we’ve seen people advocate for four-day weeks, tight-loose-tight working, smart working and so on.

And now a new idea: no meetings weeks, from Google. This claims to be a simple yet effective way of helping employees avoid burnout, recognising the dread many of us feel when we open our diary and see a day of back-to-back calls and Zoom meetings. It gives team weeks in their diary where they can work without interruptions, allowing them to focus on getting things done, rather than getting through calendar commitments. It’s interesting that there are clear exceptions outlined – for “hard deadlines, closing deals or supporting critical infrastructure”. So this could probably be better framed as “no meetings that we don’t really need”, which seems like a good principle for all of us to adopt when thinking about whether or not to put that meeting in the diary.

It’s not to say that this is a panacea. Perhaps such a system wouldn’t work for your team (it certainly doesn’t work in a client-focused business) or that implementing it will leave people feeling isolated and lacking the social interaction that we all crave.

What is clear is that there is no one-size-fits all, and what may work for others may not work for you. New ways of working and trying out different approaches is key – as is flexibility, and responsiveness, and adapting to what you learn. Do these approaches bring better work-life balance, or productivity to your team? Or do they add a burden to your workforce? No meeting weeks could be another tool in the arsenal of managing work-life balance and productivity, but it’s hard to see them as the one and only solution to managing stress and burnout.

By Marie Guérinet

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