The rise of meeting-free days: how to meet less to get more done

What are meeting-free days and why should you implement them at your organization? Discover how implementing a meeting-free day can help your employees feel more valued, more productive, and more satisfied—and give companies a reality check about how they are spending their precious time.

The results are in: back-to-back meetings are a phenomenal waste of time—and many companies, from Shopify and Facebook to Atlassian and Zapier, are getting rid of them. There's a good reason for this. The average worker has an average of 62 meetings a month and considers half ineffective and unnecessary. That amounts to eight hours a week for most teams and a whopping half of senior leadership's work week.

Long, unnecessary and frequent meetings were already an issue before the pandemic. But with the rise of hybrid work and remote teams, many employees are meeting more than ever. And the strain is evident. Knowledge workers now spend 85% of their time in meetings—taking a toll on people's psychological and physical health. 

Adopting a no-meeting day  

To limit the demands of constant meetings, many companies have been experimenting with no-meeting days—a day or multiple days a week in which there are no all-hands, team, or one-on-one meetings. A no-meeting day's goal is to cut unnecessary meetings and give employees uninterrupted time to do deep, productive work. 

It might sound like a heavy lift to eliminate meetings, but consider this: Over 40 percent of employees do other work during meetings and say they contribute nothing. Many meetings exist only for meeting's sake, killing productivity while giving people a false sense of getting work done. That's why so many companies are experimenting with no-meeting days—some clearing one day a week for uninterrupted work, others granting two, three, or four, and others eliminating meetings altogether. 

Implementing a meeting-free day can help your employees feel more valued, more productive, and more satisfied—and give companies a reality check about how they are spending their precious time.

The benefits of meeting-free days

There are many perks to implementing no-meeting days, benefiting employees and the company's bottom line. A recent study showed that no-meeting days had a cascade of positive effects, improving employee autonomy, engagement, and satisfaction at the job while reducing stress and micromanagement issues. Despite meeting less, worker productivity rose due to these changes, benefiting the company. Here are some concrete ways that meeting-free days can benefit your workplace.

Increased focus and productivity

To get deep, meaningful, and creative work done, employees need uninterrupted time—to brainstorm, research, think, and experiment. Researchers call a state of deep focus and creativity a flow state. Giving your employees time to get into this state is crucial to producing vibrant and innovative ideas, but constant meetings can interrupt this flow and fragment people's attention. In a connected company, communication is key. But often, communication is prioritized over more contemplative or attentive time, costing everybody.

Many employees spend most of their time wrapping up work to prepare for meetings or tying up loose ends afterward, making it hard to focus. Research shows that after an interruption, it takes nearly half a minute to get back on task. This might seem like a small dip in attention, but it adds up, with shifting tasks accounting for nearly 40% of an employee's productive time. The key is to balance communication and focus, having more effective meetings less often and giving teams time to flow.

Boosted morale

Research shows that workers who feel valued do better work—and one of the best ways you can show you value an employee is by valuing their time. Giving workers a meeting-free day signals that you value their creative, substantive work—not just people in meetings or faces on a screen. Unsurprisingly, studies show that employees with more time report better mental and physical health. Most employees want to meaningfully contribute to the company and have time to do the jobs they care about, and uninterrupted time offers them this opportunity.

Some companies are even going beyond offering no-meeting days and offering employees half days to attend to family and personal concerns, showing that they value their employee's time on and off the clock. Often, a simple reduction in meetings and interruptions can improve the quality of work across the board.

More time for valuable work

Every job has rote elements, but businesses thrive on new, innovative ideas. Unfortunately, there is often little time in an average workday for the substantial creative work that makes companies move from good work to excellent. By creating work-free days, companies give employees time to do work that drives them, creating value for the company and increasing individual satisfaction. As employees find more time for substantive projects, the whole workplace benefits.

How to implement a no-meeting policy

While many employees want and would benefit from a meeting-free workday, leadership must approach implementation deliberately. Every office and team works differently, and a one-size-fits-all meeting directive from the C-suite might cause friction. Before issuing a new policy, meet with all affected stakeholders to hear employees' concerns and desires about meeting-free days. One group might want meeting-free days on a certain day of the week. Others might prefer a specific communication policy. Once you have buy-in, you can tailor your approach to whatever works best for your workplace.

Additionally, it's important to remember that simply shifting to a no-meeting day policy does not guarantee that the number of meetings will be reduced. Pairing a meeting-free directive with a calendar audit will help you see how your employees spend their time. An audit enables you to gauge which meetings are important and which are extraneous, ensuring that a no-meeting day doesn't coincide with more meetings on other days. Finally, coaching your team leaders on how to lead efficient meetings will go a long way to making sure that your no-meeting policy has the proper impact.

Harnessing technology to help your no-meeting policy succeed

To help your no-meeting policy succeed in a workforce of remote teams and asynchronous work, you need technology to help you capture group communications in a way that works for everyone. With Clearword, powerful AI technology records and documents meetings—from action items to key decisions—and stores them in a single, searchable knowledge hub.

Documenting meetings allows connected companies to coordinate asynchronous work across time zones. Clearword enables workplaces to create meeting-free workdays by allowing employees to work at the time and pace that works best for them, balancing communication and creativity to create a knowledge-sharing culture that prioritizes both people and profit.