If you work in an office, chances are that you spend some of your time in meetings. In fact, the evidence suggests that it’s more than likely that you spend a lot of time in meetings. A 2013 report which looked at the meeting habits of 500 workers found that on average, a worker spent about 16 hours a week in meetings.i Over the course of a year, this works out at over 700 hours in meetings – that’s the equivalent of spending over a month, working 24 hours a day, in meetings. So if it feels like you’re spending a great chunk of your life staring at a PowerPoint whilst Julian from Marketing explains his latest ground-breaking innovation, then you’re not far wrong.
So with all of this time at work being eaten up by meetings, it’s clear that workers should be making the most out of this time. If staff are disengaged in meetings, yawning and (sorry, Julian) staring at the clock, then that’s an awful lot of wasted time and productivity. So how can you break up the monotony of the board room and make sure workers remain engaged in this valuable time? Well, good old mother nature might just be the answer you’re looking for.
We all know the benefits of being outside – and with the wonderful weather the UK has had over the past few weeks, there’s no better time to get out there. Being connected with nature gives us a spring in our step – making us happy and more productive (for more information on how a connection with nature in the workplace and biophilia can help us, make sure you check out our
latest White Paper
). There is no real reason why we can’t shake things up at work and
harness this by taking our meetings outside. More often than not, the reality is that we come out of our meeting rooms, held in an impersonal meeting space, feeling drained and sleepy with only half the conversations recalled, as you check your email notifications whilst appearing to be attentive. The evidence suggests that regular outdoor meetings will leave employees feeling refreshed and recharged, rather than depleted of enthusiasm and energy. ii
In an age where we are faced with media overload, it can only be a good thing to get out of the office and ‘back to basics’ by spending time outside. Colleagues can spend time in the open air, talking face to face about ideas in an area away from their normal working environment. If your company is lucky enough to have a garden, terrace or any outside space – use it! Sit on the grass for catch ups, use picnic benches if you need your laptop. Diversity in our working day is important, and spending time outside in the sun lapping
up vitamin D is good for us. Another novel idea that is slowly being introduced as part of the working environment is the idea of outdoor pods. These are weather proof, self contained units that function as meeting or working spaces. These pods allow workers to take the office out door in all weathers, even if the weather isn’t cooperating (to have a look at some examples, check o
Perhaps better still, is the idea of walking meetings. This combines the positive effects of being out of the office with exercise. One of the most depressing things as a worker is being tied to a desk, while glorious sunshine beams in through the windows. If the meeting you’re planning is just a catch up or a discussion of ideas, then why not take the meeting outside and hit the pavements, or have a ten minute walk around the local park. Combining meetings with short bursts of exercise means your workers can reap the benefits of the sunshine and greater levels of activity, whilst getting work done. Small steps like these can pave the way to a healthier, happier and more productive workforce.
However, for some offices taking meetings outside is just not practical. In either very hot or cold climates, getting outside can be more of a chore than a relief. But there are still plenty of ways to kick the monotony of meetings to the kerb. The modern office has been taking great strides towards flexible ways of working, where staff choose the best location for the task at hand. Heads down work can be completed in quiet zones, lunch can be had in breakout space and private phone calls can be held in soundproof booths. Agile ways of working can also afford us flexibility in terms of the spaces we choose to meet in the office. In a recent project for a London based asset management company, we observed staff taking part in what they referred to as ‘scrums’. These were brief, 10 minute standing meetings held once or twice a day – the ‘unbookable’ space was a desk, comfortable to lean on whilst standing, next to a white board. This allowed staff to catch up quickly, getting all ideas heard in a way that didn’t eat into the working day. Spaces like these are just one of many great ways to encourage staff to meet with each other in a productive way. This idea can be replicated by removing chairs from meetings – people are less likely to be long winded when they have to stand.
To sum up: meetings are a huge part of most people’s working lives. More often than not, it is the case that the environment of the meeting is given too little consideration. This is a wider issue that is too broad to be fully discussed in this blog, but getting outside and hosting standing meetings are two options that are easily available to most office workers. Choosing the most effective way to hold each meeting, whether that be outside, in the local coffee shop or stood around the water cooler will help to significantly enhance the meeting experience for you and your attendees. So next time you and Julian need a catch up with the team, why not mix it up and try something new?