The power of face-to-face: how to boost meeting productivity

Productivity has been a much-debated topic for many years, especially since the normalisation of remote and hybrid working.

The power of face-to-face: how to boost meeting productivity

Today, some believe that working from home is the most productive, while others are adamant that the energy of the office space is conducive to working at your best.

At, we are all about helping people find the right circumstances for their work. Our ethos is that having the right tools can supercharge your workday. What’s more,  a global survey we ran recently revealed that for 83% of UK respondents, productivity is crucial in preventing employee burnout and improving well-being. The matter of productivity is as urgent as ever.

When addressing this issue, leaders have recently started to re-evaluate meetings. Many believe that meeting overload hinders productivity. Sure enough, if you’ve ever jumped back and forth between a Zoom call and your inbox, it might seem hard to unearth the real value of meetings. But it is important to remember that not all meetings are made equal. For example, face-to-face contact can be essential when teams get stuck or when you need new ideas or an energy boost. If approached in the right way, meetings can be powerful drivers of productivity.

So, let’s rethink the modern meeting and remind ourselves what the magic of human interaction can do. Here are some considerations that will bring back the spark. 

Come prepared and ready to jump in.

For meetings to be productive, we need to be mindful of how our time is spent. Is the meeting being used to read the brief out loud or do some preparatory research that should have been done beforehand? Or worse, is it just a way to share information or status updates, easily accomplished via messages and task management tools?

To maximise productivity, come to meetings with a clear sense of objectives and desired outcomes in mind. The best way to achieve this is by investing time in preparation and getting your initial thoughts on paper.

I would encourage leaders to set expectations ahead of each meeting so that teams know exactly what to expect and what preparation is required. In our team, we have connected with ChatGPT, to help us prepare for client-facing meetings, prompting GPT with questions such as “tell me more about company X’s industry”, “what are the current challenges this industry has in 2023?”, “who are the main players and what do their revenue streams look like?” For us, this has massively expedited the process and made it easier for everyone to arrive ready to jump in. 

Cultivate monotasking in the meeting room.

At first glance, it may seem logical to equate multitasking with productivity. Surely, doing more at the same time means getting more done? Recent research shows that the opposite is true. In Johann Hari’s book Stolen Focus, the award-winning author dedicates an entire chapter to explaining why multitasking hinders productivity. He reveals that the average office worker spends only three minutes on a single task before switching their attention to something else. This super multitasking mode is not conducive to unlocking deep focus and productivity.

The same is true of meetings, which must be set up with a specific purpose in mind, and yet we often fail to dedicate our full attention to them. To stay focused on the subject, leave your phone behind before starting the meeting. Research shows that even having your phone in your field of vision can be detrimental to staying focused. 

If you absolutely need your laptop, have just the necessary documents up, mute notifications, close any distracting apps and put yourself on “do not disturb” on your communication apps. Setting yourself up for optimal focus is setting yourself up for success. Personally, I start most meetings by reminding the team to close their laptops, and I encourage using a piece of paper if they want to take notes. I also have a board with the list of the team meetings’ topics that is published ahead of time and also has all the details and actions there, so if someone misses the team meeting, they can review the list of items and action them. This keeps us the team focused and ensures we are all on the same page.

Prioritise active listening, understanding, and acknowledging.

Remember that the aim of the meeting is to bring your team together and enable collaboration. Again, this is important not just for exchanging information – as that is so easily done via other means – but for forging stronger relationships within a team. That is a major prerequisite for working together effectively and in turn, boosting productivity.

Team meetings are for staying up to date with priority actions, , but also, and more importantly, they offer a chance for the team to get excited by the week and form a team spirit mindset . Given that productivity is closely linked with well-being, it is important to foster a positive atmosphere. At the start of weekly meetings I lead, I usually let the team get lost in chatter for a good 5-10 minutes so we can start the week off with laughs and sharing our favourite moments of the weekend. 

Afterwards, I always ask “what is top of mind for you all”, as this helps the team stay up to date with what everyone is working on, or excited or stressed about. 

A meeting is more than just a platform for sharing briefs and information. Ideally, it is a way for people to connect with each other and discuss ideas in an efficient and inspiring way. To create such an environment, business leaders should encourage teams to prepare effectively, stay focused, and actively participate in order to make the meeting a productive space. That way, they can avoid the feeling of “meeting overload” and send productivity through the roof.

Johnny Clarke
Johnny Clarke

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