With the advent of the hybrid work model, corporate operation has taken an unforeseen turn. Employees — who are already reeling under the challenges of working from home — have an additional responsibility to coordinate work with the upper management more efficiently, while also ensuring that their daily tasks are accomplished. Add to it the extra pressure of continuous meetings throughout the day, to ensure optimum communication. Combined with the daily work, this cocktail is definitely not meant for efficient output. Not only can back-to-back meetings with management affect the productivity of employees, it can mess up their health and personal lives big time.
Anand Shankar, director, Tata Management Training Centre, believes that the pandemic situation that corporates are currently facing is the key factor behind this trend. Shankar rightly says, “It’s a sign of the times. I am sure there are certain people who perhaps either overestimate their bandwidth or underestimate the tasks, or both. However, by and large, this is a peril that we are faced with, and which is particularly accentuated in the digital virtual workplace.”
“Guidelines must be developed and implemented to create a sustainable environment for efficient operation, which respects work-life balance”
Adil Malia, CEO, The Firm
Shankar further points out that people are no longer walking into meetings, or having a cup of tea with colleagues before or after official interactions. Water cooler conversations, travelling between venues, and “all the so called normal things that employees were used to, have flown out the window and been replaced by call after call after call to ensure connectivity.” Naturally, they are left with no time for individual reflection or collective conversations. “This is not mismanagement at an individual level, but misallocation of work and tasks at a systemic and very often organisational level,” he asserts.
Hari TN, head – HR, Big Basket, also believes that back-to-back meetings in the present scenario are reflective of inefficiency at the leadership level. However, it still reflects badly on the employees who are undergoing such a rigorous communication regime. “A look at people’s calendars can reveal a lot about them. Those who are too busy are not making strategic use of their time and are probably just lost in transactions. They are working inefficiently because they don’t have time for themselves to ponder and upskill their own professional lives,” he analyses.
“One may seem very busy to the world, but most of the activities don’t result in positive outcomes”
Hari TN, Head – HR, Big Basket
The pandemic is also a major contributor towards the employees’ days that are packed, blocked and filled with meetings. Niharika Mohan, CHRO, Luminous Power Technologies, says that organisations, as a whole, must mature into hybrid operations as time progresses, to ease out the workload of their employees. “In a normal world, back-to-back meetings would be a call for someone to relook at their schedules. However, in the virtual world of today, all of us are in the process of adapting to the changes in the current workplace. I think a tad more maturity in the hybrid workspace, can help streamline things,” believes Mohan.
She does admit that the virtual world leads to more connects. If one has a query, one just has to reach out. However, it is definitely not a sustainable model. Everyone is adopting. “Structuring one’s day and planning ahead is extremely necessary to get a control of one’s work life,” Mohan adds.
Adil Malia, CEO, The Firm identifies three major reasons for the cluttered work schedules of employees. “First, organisations have not found the proper rhythm of hybrid working, and have failed to respect the work-life balance of their employees. Second, the leadership hardly empathises with the employees. Third, Indian executives are less assertive of their personal space. Employees need to push back and demand time for themselves,” Malia says.
“Structuring one’s day and planning ahead is extremely necessary to get a control of one’s work life”
Niharika Mohan, CHRO, Luminous Power Technologies
How to get out of a situation where continuous meetings become a norm?
Hari TN believes that this situation will ultimately become “activity traps” for the organisations as well as their employees. In other words, “One may seem very busy to the world, but most of the activities don’t result in positive outcomes,” he states.
Hari rightly points out that most meetings are utterly useless. Matters that can be updated by e-mail are unnecessarily discussed in tedious meetings. “People who are continuously busy with meetings should ponder over what they are actually doing with their professional lives and time,” he suggests.
A careful analysis of such traps and working smart to avoid them is the solution Hari offers. “Don’t get stuck in activity traps. Identify the unnecessary activities, including meetings, and avoid them. Don’t interfere in the work of your team members. Let them do their jobs. Hold them accountable, identify their mistakes and help them correct them, instead of redoing their work,” advises Hari.
Adil Malia believes that since the hybrid work model is here to stay, influential bodies must step in and introduce regulations to enhance work-life balance for employees. “Companies need to adhere to certain ethics in a hybrid model. Large-scale organisations, such as the CII, should come together and develop regulations for the hybrid model of operation. Guidelines must be developed and implemented to create a sustainable environment for efficient operation, which respects work-life balance,” proposes Malia.
“Back to back meetings is not mismanagement at an individual level, but misallocation of work and tasks at a systemic and very often organisational level”
Anand Shankar, director, Tata Management Training Centre
Anand Shankar shares a similar view. “The way to break the chain is for organisations to impose breaks, mandate some rules of engagement, adopt peer monitoring mechanisms, and have weekly block-out dates for meetings.”
He shares how some companies are already following a ‘no meeting’ rule on specific days of the week, when no internal meetings are scheduled. Customer meetings or emergencies are of course different.
At the end of the day, it is clear that back-to-back meetings are redundant for employees as well as the employers. Companies must work towards developing methods that optimise communication in a hybrid situation and also allow their employees to enjoy adequate work-life balance.