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No. 1 lesson from 3 years of no-meeting Wednesdays, says HR expert: Meetings aren’t ‘the enemy’

By | Natasha Piñon |

Jennie Rogerson was working as the executive assistant to the founders of graphic design platform Canva when she noticed a problem: Her bosses were too bogged down by meetings to actually get work done.

“Their calendar looked like a massive game of Tetris, where they didn’t have breathing space,” Rogerson, now the company’s global head of people, recalls. “They were constantly changing gears from topic to topic.”

Sixty-seven percent of workers say excessive meetings prevent them from doing their best work, a 2019 survey from consulting firm Korn Ferry reported.

Yet they’re becoming more common. Meetings escalated especially noticeably when the Covid pandemic hit American workplaces in 2020, according to a Harvard Business School study of 3.1 million people in 16 cities.

Rogerson pitched her bosses on meeting-free Wednesdays — just for their own schedules, not as a company-wide initiative — so they could regroup, catch up on work and plan for the second half of the week.

It worked well enough for Canva to institute it as a company-wide policy in 2020. “If you’ve been in back-to-back meetings, even having an hour break is just bliss,” Rogerson says.

Just one no-meeting day per week leads to improved employee engagement, satisfaction and autonomy — plus decreased stress and reports of micromanagement — according to a 2022 MIT Sloan Management Review survey, which studied 76 companies across 50 countries.

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