A man wearing a dark blue t-shirt smiles at the camera. Behind him is some shrubbery. He is Sam Liang, CEO of Otter.ai.
Sam Liang, Otter.ai. Image: Christophe Testi/CreativeShot Photography

How work meetings are set to change in 2023

23 Jan 2023

Otter.ai’s Sam Liang discusses the trends he expects to see this year, which are set to bring on a new era for work meetings.

Challenges drive innovations. It’s fair to say that the last few years have been turbulent for businesses and 2023 is set to be no different.

But against the backdrop of economic uncertainties and budgets tightening, we’re seeing businesses begin to implement radical changes to drive efficiencies and empower productivity. In the search to do more with less, the spotlight is shining on meetings.

The ways in which we work have significantly changed in recent years. This has been led by the onset of the pandemic, which ushered in the trend of remote and hybrid working. And the new flexible working model has become the norm, with hybrid and remote working job posts up 43pc since last year, according to a recent report.

Our new working landscape changed the game for meetings, transforming them from time away from the screen with colleagues to back-to-back conference calls with a view of ‘keeping in touch’.

And here lies the problem: to stay connected, well-meaning managers and executives over-compensated by saturating their workforce’s calendar with meetings.

While businesses might have been under the impression that frequent online calls were the answer to connection in a remote world, evidence has shown that this simply isn’t the case.

As we discovered in a recently published Otter.ai report on the cost of unnecessary meetings, employees are frustrated by the current volume of meetings.

Almost half (46pc) agree that they have too many unnecessary meetings in their calendar and, if we reduce this, they (84pc) say it will have a real impact on their productivity levels and improve their job satisfaction (70pc) significantly.

Realising that fostering an engaged and productive workforce doesn’t come from more meetings, it’s clear that a big shift is coming in 2023. Here’s a snapshot into how meetings will look in the year ahead.

A reduction in meeting cadence and length 

Instead of filling calendars with meetings, companies are reflecting on how they communicate internally and whether all the current calls in their diary are truly necessary.

In some instances, this is a radical shift in culture, such as the recent turnaround by e-commerce company Shopify, which has purged all meetings with more than two people, keeping meetings to only four days a week and ruling that meetings with 50 or more people can only be held between 11am and 5pm on Thursdays. The result? More than 76,500 hours of meetings removed from employees’ calendars.

In other, less drastic instances, companies are simply cutting down either the number of meetings their teams are required to attend or shortening their length.

Since experts have concluded that 15-minute meetings are every bit as effective as longer meetings for bonding teams, keeping projects on track and checking in with one another, it makes perfect sense to free up employees’ time to attend to more pressing matters.

In keeping with our findings, this improves both employees’ mental health and productivity levels.

Using tech to support meetings

Businesses are also looking to modern technology to help them make meetings and calls more effective in 2023. Automated note-taking tools, for example, ensure that meeting content can be circulated beyond those in physical attendance, enabling employees to skip a meeting that is not critical for them to attend.

In fact, our research revealed that 71pc of professionals would skip non-critical meetings if they received “high-quality notes” as a follow-up.

Ensuring that quality notes, action items, or meeting summaries are circulated is essential to make meetings more productive and actionable. Without the fear of missing out from the conversation if they do decline meetings, employees get the best of both worlds.

Utilising collaboration platforms like Slack can help businesses to remove some of those unnecessary meetings too. These tools became essential at the onset of hybrid and remote working, with updates and new features making them even more useful for organisational collaboration.

The rapid onset of meetings coincided with a need to stay connected and these tools are designed to do just that, without providing the disruption to the working day like meetings do.

Effective utilisation of technology, combined with open and honest communication from business leaders on when it’s OK to skip a meeting, means it has never been easier for businesses to foster a healthy meeting culture for employees.

Driving productivity with meeting structure

More traditional methods of increasing efficiency and productivity will be implemented in meetings in 2023 too.

For example, the Parento Principle, which utilises the 80/20 rule. In practice, this means discussing the most important 20pc of tasks at the start of the meeting, so that if it runs over, time has been spent efficiently.

Similarly, implementing agendas can help to keep meetings on topic – increasing meeting productivity and streamlining the overall process.

Ensuring that participants know what is expected of a meeting doesn’t have to be a time consuming task, even sending a short email ahead of the meeting is effective.

2023: The year meetings change for the better

External factors have certainly contributed to the re-evaluation of meetings. While traditional meeting culture got in the way of work, remote and hybrid working took this to the extreme. And with the current economic situation meaning businesses are under more pressure than ever, it’s about time that meeting culture is revamped.

In 2023, we can expect to see just that. With 5.7 hours per week currently spent in unnecessary meetings according to Otter.ai’s report, it’s easy to understand why organisations like Shopify are taking drastic measures and resetting company-wide meeting cadence.

Businesses as a whole are unlikely to take such defining actions, but we can expect to see the volume of meetings reduce as a whole over the course of this year.

Those meetings deemed necessary will also see significant shifts, this could be by implementing modern technology to support the process through the automated taking and distributing notes, or we might see traditional productivity techniques being used to streamline meeting structure.

Whatever changes are implemented, it’s clear that a new era for meetings is on the horizon.

By Sam Liang

Sam Liang is the CEO and founder of transcription software provider, Otter.ai.

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