Our progress towards more meeting free time: what’s worked so far

Back in September I wrote a blog about how we had been collaborating as a team to ensure we all got meeting free time and a proper lunch break in our working day 

I promised to come back and update you on how things were going and if using speedy meetings in Google Calendar helped us. ‘Speedy meetings’ is a setting that you can turn on in Google Calendar so that when you book a 30 minute meeting the booking is automatically reduced to a 25 minutes meeting. This saves you having to remember to do this when booking meetings and makes sure your team gets a mini break between meeting bookings.

To find out how things were working for our team I set up a mini online retrospective (retro) and asked everyone in the team to contribute their feedback on what was working well and what could still be improved. 

I chose to get feedback from the team using the online retro first so I wasn’t booking in a meeting taking up the team’s time. I could then book in a meeting if I needed to based on the feedback. 

The team provided clear online feedback so we didn’t need to meet. I suppose without this being something we agreed to do back in the Summer I think as a team we have become more conscious of only booking in meetings when we need them.  

Once everyone had shared their thoughts I was able to analyse the feedback into themes.

What was working well

The team felt that all our calendars being blocked out 12:00-1:30 each day allowed time to take lunch break when they wanted to and also allowed for some meeting free time to get tasks done

Using Google Calendar speedy meetings to book 50 minute meetings rather than an hour, and 25 minutes rather than 30 minutes lets us have a 5 or 10 minute micro break between meetings and that feels like enough time for us as a team to be ready and refreshed for the next meeting

The team felt that having the one page profiles has made us more conscious as a team around other colleagues’ preferences and that as a team we have become more conscious of checking in with each other that we have had a break between meetings 

We have started booking time in our calendars for our focussed work. This again means we get time to get on with tasks without being in back-to-back meetings

Things not working as well 

Back at our away session we agreed to set our status in Slack so that other team members could see if someone is in a meeting, so that the person in the meeting didn’t feel under pressure to respond right away to Slack messages. However not everyone is using Slack to update their status. 

There was also feedback that some meetings are overrunning so this eats into the micro breaks between meetings.

We’ve seen an increase in last minute catch-ups being booked in with no clear agenda or purpose. This is making it hard to know the catch-up should be prioritised. Also these more ad hoc sessions often over run. 

We have now spent some time as a team thinking about how we can make some more improvements to the things that are not working. 

Things we will now improve 

We agreed it doesn’t matter if not everyone is setting their status in Slack, those that find it useful can do this. We are also going to explore automating our Slack status based on our Google Calendar. I got a notification from Slack about setting this up today so I will have a play with that and come back and share how I get on. 

We are going to explore if using a timer in meetings helps meetings to stay on track. I had a look at Zoom today and in the meeting settings you can select an option that shows the time spent in a meeting on your screen to help you keep track. There are also some meeting timer plugins we can explore too. 

I am also going to do a review into the types of meetings that are overrunning and try to get to the bottom of why this is happening so we can then agree as a team how to fix this.

As a team we have all agreed to add the purpose of meetings to calendar invites so everyone is clear why a meeting has been booked.

None of these things are big things, but as I said back in the Summer, I am pleased we are working as a team to achieve meeting free time and continuing to keep an eye on how things are going so we can keep improving things.

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