Are Work Meetings Murder?

work meetingsIn a recent NYT article about work meetings, contributor Virginia Heffernan describes the only meeting ever led by Octavian Costache, the chief technology officer and co-founder Spring, a tech start-up in Manhattan. That incident occurred about a year ago, and instead of meeting to talk about the usual company business, Costache decided to talk about meetings themselves. “Specifically, he wanted to talk about meetings as thieves: of joy, of productivity, of mental freedom.” Drawing on categories first described by the famous venture capitalist Paul Graham, Costache explained to the attendees that some workers thrive on meetings: these are the Managers, people who require their calendar to be entirely blocked out with color-coded events, and hourly changes of venue and cohort. But there are also the Makers: creative types whose productivity and imagination tanks when confronted by ‘‘sync,’’ ‘‘brand lab’’ or ‘‘share-out’’ in a conference room. Makers can’t work like Managers. They require ‘‘Maker hours’’ — long, uninterrupted afternoons to think, contemplate the possibilities, build things and play stress-relieving games. They need rich, solitary time to incubate ideas. In Graham’s formula, Makers excel in 4-hour stretches of time, which absolutely must —be kept free of meetings.

“Meetings”: The very word sucks the energy out of the room. Yet we commit more and more of our time to them. To be specific, 15% of an organization’s time is spent in meetings, and every day, “the transcontinental conference room known as the white-collar United States plays host to 11 million meetings, according to research collated by Fuze, the telecommunications company (which might have a stake in publicizing research designed to stoke meeting fatigue).” One study found a way to calculate that the American workplace wastes more than $37 billion in “unproductive meetings.”

Perhaps we are seeking some reprieve from the loneliness of our cubicles and lunch in front of the computer screen. They’ve become so pervasive that not only do many professions get buried by them; an increasing number of jobs are built on them. One can fill a whole career of planning, holding and attending meetings.

As Heffernan contemplated the problem, she increasingly thought it likely that meetings couldn’t be avoided – but, perhaps they could be made bearable. And as she set out to see if anyone had a bright idea, she wrote the observations in “Meet Is Murder”: check out the full NYT article here.



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