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October 16, 2023

Can the way meetings are scheduled during the day hinder performance at work? A study published by the American Psychological Association reveals that yes, it can. Organizational management scholars in China and the United States found that what has the greatest impact on executives’ “energy” is not the number of hours spent in meetings, but the proportion of time spent in meetings compared to the periods devoted to individual tasks.

Over the course of a week, 412 professionals in creative and technology-related fields were interviewed in the middle and at the end of each shift about the meetings and tasks they carried out in the morning and afternoon, as well as their mood levels at the end of each shift. Indicators such as creativity and performance were also compiled with the team managers.

The research reveals that stacking too many meetings together on the same day or pairing intense meetings with other intense tasks are key errors many people commit. According to the authors, both strategies can actually diminish the ability to recharge and replenish during the day, which can be a detriment to work. 

How to balance work and meetings

In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, Chen Zhang, Gretchen M. Spreitzer, and Zhaodong (Alan) Qiu offer some tips:

  • Reasonable balance

“A reasonable balance between meetings and individual tasks allows for essential breaks and energy replenishment throughout the workday. This approach requires not overloading a single day with many meetings, even if it may sometimes seem like a time-saving strategy. Managing the proportion of meeting time relative to individual work on a daily basis can enhance energy levels at work, thereby contributing to improved performance, creativity, and job satisfaction.”

  • Workday design

“Recognize the benefits of pairing high-pressure meetings with low-pressure individual tasks, or vice versa. Rather than clustering activities of the same pressure level into a single period, distribute challenging tasks and meetings across different days or different time segments of the day. This approach fosters proper pressure complementarity, thereby enhancing workday energy to facilitate better performance.”

  • Holistic approach

“Rather than simply fitting a meeting or individual task into the calendar for its own convenience, consider the broader implications for your workday structure. Be mindful of how a scheduling decision may alter the arrangement pattern of your workday, potentially influencing your energy and productivity.”

Source: American Psychological Association | Harvard Business Review