This is when more meetings can actually make your workplace happier

By Stephanie Vozza

April 02, 2022
This is when more meetings can actually make your workplace happier

Few people love meetings. They interrupt your day, which hurts your workflow, and many could have been an email. A Harvard Business Review survey of managers found that 83% reported that meetings on their calendars were unproductive. But Nic Marks, CEO of Friday Pulse, an organization that uses a Happiness KPI to help teams build a better future, says meetings can be the key to workplace happiness.

Five components are critical to workplace happiness: connection, fairness, empowerment, challenge, and inspiration, explains Marks, a statistician and wellbeing specialist, whose TED Talk on world happiness has more 2.5 million views.

“They all have an influence, they’re all important, and for some people, some are more important than others,” he says. “We’re very socially motivated. If we get on well with our colleagues and feel supported, everything goes a lot better. I’ve surveyed people, asking, ‘How frequently do you have a team meeting?’ If people don’t have team meetings, the data we have is that they’re three times more likely to be unhappy. Good team meetings are worth about half a point on a one to five scale of happiness, so it’s quite a big effect.”

While meetings that are too long or are inefficient can be a problem, team meetings that have a clear direction and serve as a bonding experience, improve team relationships. Marks offers these tips:

Weekly Meetings

First, hold weekly team meetings. “We work in week sprints; it’s the way we organize our work,” says Marks. “Look back at how the last week went, ask people what went well, what didn’t go well. Build on what’s gone well, and tackle what doesn’t go well.”

Leaders should also call out employees’ successes, thanking them and showing appreciation. “In a group setting, it’s very resonant,” says Marks. “Not only does the person hear it, but their colleagues do. And everybody feels better.”

Team meetings also provide a good place for employees to share frustrations or things they’re stuck on. “It provides a good opportunity to flag their concerns, talk them through, and support each other,” says Marks. “Trust is built slowly. Aristotle once said, ‘Excellence is a habit.’ If you’re going to create happier teams, you’ve got to create your habits. And I think the key the core habit is a weekly meeting to talk about how things are.”


One-on-One Meetings

Instead of waiting for annual reviews or difficulties, Marks recommends that leaders hold brief one on one meetings with each employee every month or quarter. “I think the less frequently you do this, the more rigid they become,” he says. “If you do them more informally, you build a better relationship as a team leader and the more things can talk about.”

The purpose for these meetings is to discuss topics an employee may not feel comfortable raising during the team meeting. They’re also a way to build a relationship. “They’re more about asking, ‘How are you doing? What’s going well for you personally?’” says Marks. “It’s more ‘cup of coffee’ relationship than it is about work content.”

Walk and Talk Meetings

Marks also encourages teams to get outside and try walk-and-talk meetings. Even just 30 minutes outside can make so much difference for mental health, he says.

“I think one of the problems with Zoom is you’re looking straight at somebody,” he says. “I’m a big fan of not sitting down opposite each other and and talking but you know doing it informally and going for a walk if the weather’s good.”

Walking side by side provides a sense that you are supported and going in the same direction. “You’re able to say things a little bit differently,” says Marks. “Because your body is moving, you start to release things and are able to talk more freely because not looking directly in the eye. I think it just moves the conversation better.”

Getting outside also allows you to leave the office environment behind, which can help if the conversation is difficult, Marks adds. “Walking somehow deescalates it and makes it easier to talk,” he says. “Greenery calms and reassures us, too. There’s lots of data about getting outside is good for our wellbeing and our happiness. It brings that to meetings, as well.”

For all of these kinds of meetings, leaders need to talk less and listen more, says Marks. “Be facilitative, rather than prescriptive,” he says. “Be supportive. You’re trying to help ingredients in the room come together to be something more and the way you do that is draw people out. You’ll get people to engage and feel more able to be themselves.”

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