Coming from a traditional publishing company, I had no idea that all offices didn’t have high beige-colored cubicles, off-white walls, brown desks, and tan carpet. I had assumed every office consisted of a lifetime of uninspired ‘bleige’ (bland beige) decor. 

You can imagine my surprise when the .com boom came, and I was able to witness the influx of imaginative office spaces our clients began creating.  I would walk into the latest ad-tech company and smile at the ping pong table in the entranceway with people actually playing it, colorful walls littered with inspirational quotes on post-it notes and open floorplans where pop-up collaborative brainstorming sessions would happen mid-department. 

Several years later, when our organization was moving, we finally became modern and took a page from the ad-tech book with open floorspaces, some splashes of color and collaboration space that we called our inspiration-station. 

The buzz in the new office was amazing, it gave employees a jolt of happiness just by being in a new, clean and airy environment. Unfortunately,  that bloom came off the rose pretty quickly.  

Our love of collaboration turned into a battle for privacy, quiet time and thought-work, all of which were now rare commodities. 

It all came at a price, the high cost of distractability. 

People were talking to each other two rows apart or interrupting each other so they can get buy-in or feedback on something they were working on, or even send an email and shout, ‘I sent you an email, can you take a look at it.”   

On top of the new environment, our organization had morphed into a culture of meetings. Anyone who comes from a meeting culture understands first-hand the dilemma it can be.  According to Doodles 2019 Report on Meetings, poorly organized meetings result in $399 billion dollars in lost revenue each year and impact the overall effectiveness of businesses. A study by Steven Rogelberg of the University of North Carolina found that 71% of workers felt the meetings were inefficient and unproductive and 64% found the meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.

When you start your week off with having meetings coupled with open floorplan distractability and POOF! Just like that, it would be mid-week and everyone was scrambling from behind to keep up with their work demands and make up for the time suck. 

It was obvious we couldn’t afford to play catch-up all week because of the environment we had both physically (open floorplan) and culturally (meeting vortex). Something had to shift.  

Logically, we understood that if we could all be productive on Mondays, it would set the tone and the pace for the week.  Unproductive Mondays lead to stress and anxiety for employees.

One morning, we pulled the teams together and told them we were implementing MEET-less Mondays. 

There would be no hosting or scheduling any internal meetings on Mondays. This also included the impromptu pop-in meetings, you know what I’m talking about, those times when you casually lean over your colleague’s desk and ask them to review copy for you or help you with a client pitch. Instead, Monday’s were for solo work and honing your own problem-solving skills. 

Recognizing the need to set the stage for the week, we also added the quiet hour on Mondays from 3:30-4:30, where we would work quietly with headphones for those 60-minutes.

The results of MEET-less Mondays were incredible, this small shift allowed employees to;

  • Set their own priorities and keep them at least for Monday (because we all know the more input you have from bosses and colleagues, the more their priorities become your priorities)
  • See their to-do list actually dwindle
  • Leave the office on time on Monday, instead of staying to catch up on work they weren’t able to do
  • Get the harder thought-work out of the way, with no meetings and the quiet hour there were overall fewer interruptions
  • Be more creative, having fewer meetings meant more energy reserves for the meetings that matter, allowing for more creativity to flow.

In this day and age when distractibility and meetings have become a time vortex, what ways can you adjust the culture while embracing the beauty of collaboration?

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