Bays have recently introduced a new policy, blocking out Wednesday afternoons for dedicated desk time. In principal, this means that we don’t arrange any meetings on a Wednesday afternoon, giving our team a period of uninterrupted focus time. In practice, we can find ourselves at the mercy of notifications that keep pulling us away from that much needed desk time.
There is no magic solution to this problem, but there are other things we can do to maximise head-down time within the team.
As a consulting firm, we work with numerous different clients who each have different pressures on their time. It’s important for us to be able to update clients on progress and discuss blockers – at a time that suits us both. To do this, you need to be flexible; however, setting up a regular meeting cadence at the start of a project sets the tone for meetings going forward and helps everyone to plan their week around regular meeting slots.
For internal communication, there is undoubtedly a benefit to meeting regularly, particularly for remote teams. Yet, meeting too frequently and without a clear agenda can add pressure to an already busy diary. Sometimes, a Slack message with a thread of replies can be more valuable than a meeting. It also allows the team to read and reply when they feel able to, minimising time spent switching between tasks.
Yet, it can be hard to ignore a notification when it pops up, no matter how deeply engaged in a task we are. We want to know what else is going on and if it impacts our work. Some organisations implement a No Email Friday policy as another attempt to protect desk time. While this isn’t a policy adopted by Bays, we do encourage the team to turn their email or Slack notifications off when they need to get their head down. If something urgent comes up, we can ring them.
Keeping a log of work and the assumptions or decisions associated with a task can act as a reference point for everyone to read back over. When it comes to reviewing work, we can see a record of what was decided when and the rationale behind it, without needing to set up a call to discuss. The same goes for meeting minutes and actions. Logging these gives everyone clear sight of what has been discussed and what remains to be completed.
As a remote team working across various projects, it’s crucial that we are all on the same page and have access to all the same information. If a decision has been made about an approach, the whole team needs to access this information. In some cases, we do need to jump on a call to discuss and work through a problem, but where a decision is cut and dry, a message update will often do.
The benefits of working in this ‘information push’ approach are that the information is already shared for when you need it. You don’t need to request or ‘pull’ specific information to answer a question, as this can often miss important context about the wider piece of work. Instead, by encouraging everyone to share all the information they have, each team member can access this when it suits them best, around a busy meeting diary or when they are head-down in a problem and need a quick answer.
We won’t be able to eradicate meetings entirely, nor should we. But adopting this new policy will, I hope, help to protect our team’s time and give them headspace to creatively tackle problems.