Distributed workforces; The new normal

new normal

Talking about the “new normal” seems odd right now as nothing is normal. What’s certain is that things are changing in the way we work.

So firstly what is the new normal. Well as a phrase it was coined post the financial crash of 2008. It basically implies that something abnormal has become normal. It’s kind of apt that it’s become the word on everyone’s lips right now just as it was in 2008/2009. Yes I’m old enough to remember that vividly.

Where distributed workforces are involved it perfectly describes right now as most companies hove a workforce spread across home offices, kitchen tables and bedrooms the world over. And guess what, for a lot of businesses it’s not really caused much damage or upheaval. In fact the bean counters are probably sat at home working out how much they can save on office rents!

For years the idea of distributed workforces has been something of a novelty. Pursued by the 5 hour work week converts and zanny start-ups looking to be different. But quietly behind the scenes some companies have been making it work, and work well. Take Automattic for example, they’re the commercial company behind wordpress and they’re worth $1 Billion plus at last valuation. They have 1,000 plus people working in 75 countries and are 100% distributed. They would have been considered an outlier 3 months ago, but now we’re talking new normal are they the blueprint for the future of work?

What’s interesting is how many companies that are finding the enforced change actually quite straightforward. This enforced lockdown, in the UK at least, has proved to be a great stress test of the vital infrastructure, internet and telecomms and it’s all worked. Virgin media notwithstanding. It’s no coincidence that the Microsoft teams ad has been playing on virtually every TV channel around the world at most times of the day. Why? Because some smart person has realised that things are going to change permanently and working remotely will be one.

It’s perhaps too early to say what will happen in three months, 6 months or longer but what is certain is that we’ve discovered, albeit through a rather terrible cause, that we can work this way. Technology has been our saviour, once again. Working remotely also has other benefits, no more 2 hours of commuting, more time with family and yeah sitting in front of a computer in your pants!

So where does Amazemeet come into this? Well it’s the perfect time for an AI base software that helps you have better meetings. One thing is for certain that distributed workforces need the tools to work efficiently and that’s where Amazemeet excels. It’s there every step of the way to help plan, execute and manage follow on for your meetings and it will do most of it for you. Nobody likes people not showing up, Amazemeet ensures attendees are at the meeting prepared and ready. Amazemeet manages the timings to ensure things don’t spiral and it makes sure everyone knows what their post meeting actions are. In short it’s your meeting facilitator, personal assistant and secretary all rolled into one.

Amazemeet’s a great tool for running effective meetings in the new normal

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Meeting productivity tips what’s good, what’s bad.

meeting productivity tips

Despite the fact almost none of us actually put them into practice there are a host of great and not-so-great meeting productivity tips out there to help you have better meetings.

In true Amazemeet fashion we tell it like it is as we’re committed to helping you have better meetings. We’ve scoured the web and pulled together the best meeting productivity tips we could find and also busted a few myths along the way. There are a lot out there so we’ve picked on three from people you’ll hopefully recognise.

The New York Times sums it up pretty well with their three rules for running great meetings:

  1. Set the agenda. Define the purpose of the meeting and what the meeting is designed to achieve. Pretty obvious but we know from experiences that many meetings start without any clear agenda.
  2. Start on time, end on time. Again sage advice, ensuring all attendees start on time is good discipline, it shows people take the meeting seriously. Ending on time is also a great discipline, it focuses the meeting on objectives and hopefully ensures the meeting doesn’t veer off on a tangent.
  3. End with an action plan. What are the next steps, who’s responsible for the follow up and who will check if it’s done. Unless the actions and responsibilities are clear what’s the point of meeting in the first place.

These are simple meeting productivity tips and something to build upon but they focus on the key meeting elements. We’d give them a 6/10. They only fall down on the attendees side and time keeping. We believe it’s vital to ensure all attendee’s are there to contribute and employees feel empowered to say no to a meeting they can’t contribute to. We also suggest that specific discussion topics are assigned a section of the overall time limit, it helps keep the focus.

Next up is this offering from Forbes, 7 great meeting productivity tips. Let’s dive in.

  1. Make your objective for the meeting clear.
  2. Consider who is invited, can they add value?
  3. Stick to the schedule, assign discussion elements a time limit.
  4. Don’t let individuals dominate the conversation. Some people like to talk more than others but this can stifle the contribution of others. After all everyone in the meeting should be there to add value, otherwise why are they there?
  5. Start on time, end on time. We’ve seen this somewhere before 😉
  6. Ban technology, keep the focus on the meeting.
  7. Follow up. It’s vital

Great tips and getting there! The technology aspect is interesting because a little day dream can actual help the ideas flow. In fact we wrote a post on this, read it here. Overall 7/10.

Last up in our canvas of the best tips is from Slack. The guys and girls over there have really outdone themselves. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

First up they have some great advice to actually avoid having meetings. Focussing in on presentations and status updates. The former can be streamlined by sending slides in advance and taking time to engage the audience when most of the talking is being done by one person. The second they advocate scrapping and using a messaging service to accomplish what these meetings set out to achieve. It’s a great idea even if slightly self serving!

Next they advocate getting the agenda in place early, inviting the right people and asking them in advance if they feel attending will add value. They set out an easy way for people to say no. They then go on to say how you can keep people enaged through the meeting and how attendees should be assigned roles. This is agreat idea so you have a pre-defined facilitator and a note taker, especially important.

They also go on to describe the kind of time frames you should aim for and the environment you should seek out for the most productive meetings. They really think of everything. Lastly they describe the follow up, why it’s important and how it’s policed.

A definate 9/10. Great job Slack.

In most cases the advice on tap is pretty good. It misses some of the key points but it’s obvious how large organisations have cottoned on to the fact that meetings cost money and stifle productivity. Amzemeet is aiming to change this. A simple tool that helps you plan and execute better meetings, cutting out the crap and getting down to what really matters.

Tips are great but a tool that makes them easy to implement is better

Try Amazemeet, free.

What could you do with all that time?

what could you do with all that time

So what could you do with all that time? We talk a lot about cutting down meetings, here’s what it means to some of our amazing Amazemeeters.

We talk a lot about meeting efficiency and saved time but when was the last time you stopped to think what that really meant. What would you really do if you got some of that precious time back? So we asked you and as usual our amazing community was not slow coming forward. For me this is really what Amazemeet is all about having better meetings and getting back in control of not just our working lives but our lives so we can spend more time doing the things we love. My time saved is spent doing too things time with family and time to create ideas. Here’s what everyone else likes to do

The 2 hours per week savers

2 hours doesn’t seem like a lot but there’s plenty you can do with 2 hours! For most of us it seems 2 hours is a great piece of time saved to actually do some work. The biggest complaint we hear from Amazemeeters is that meetings stop them from actually doing their jobs. Gaining back 2 elusive hours is a great block of time to sit and concentrate on that report, come up with that next amazing idea or simply day dream. More on that here.

If you had 2 hours back what would you do?

4 hours per week

4 hours, that’s half a working day

We’re getting into super efficient territory here. Amazemeet is a brilliant step to saving this kind of time but like all tools it’s only as good as the person wielding them. When we spoke with our community our more experienced users are saving this kind of time cutting out unnecessary meetings but it’s also been a catalyst to get better organised in other areas of their working life. Cutting out distractions at work, being more disciplined with tasks are high on the agenda. WHat’s more startling though is how much happier Amazemeeters seem when they are making significant time saving at work.

When we asked the community what they do if they’re saving 4 or more hours a week it’s a lesson in balance. Whilst everyone seems to cite getting actual work done this is balanced with having more time for things outside of the work environment. Having fun, spending time with family, picking the kids up from school all feature highly. As does taking some time out for yourself. Many of you commented how saved time is great for mindfulness.

What’s very clear though is that more focussed Amazemeeters are getting the balance right. They generally seem happier, they’re more productive and they feel much more in control of the working lives and lives in general.

8 hours, the holy grail

So i’m sure you’ve read that and thought, hey hold on that’s a whole day. Yep, that’s right. If you read our recent post about the 5 hour work day then saving 8 hours a week is definitely possible. Just imagine what you’d do with all that time. Actually what’s interesting is that most of the community say the more time they save the more they actually need to plan how to use it. Once in a while a box set binge on the couch can be great for the soul but it’s not a long term strategy. I have to admit there aren’t that many Amazemeeters saving 8+ hours a week, those that are have really taken the bull by the horns and decided to completely re-evaluate they way they work and live. It’s not something to be done lightly. But it’s something that’s becoming increasingly necessary. Many of our work based cultural constructs are rooted in the past, particularly the idea that time spent at work equals productivity. In fact the opposite is true, it’s something we seem to have fallen into with meetings as well. Good communication is a hallmark of good company culture, but couple this with technology that’s made it super easy to meet and talk and it’s easy to tip the balance. Microsoft Japan trialled the 4 day week and two things happened. Productivity went up and so did employee happiness. The idea of simply spending more time at something goes totally out the window. Sure in a cotton mill more time on the production line probably did equate to more output. But, when the jobs that many of us do really on creativity, thinking, ideas the opposite is true.

My own experience as a seasoned marketer working both cleint and agency side is that the more you work something the worse it gets. My tactic is to walk the dog, get some clarity of thought, it’s where the saying “sleep on it” comes from.

But just think a whole day! What would you do if I suddenly said you could have a whole day back? Drop a comment and let me know.

We can’t promise you’ll save 8 hours, but we can promise you’ll take back control of your meetings

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Better meetings breakfast club.

better meetings breakfast club

So when Mike first mentioned the better meetings breakfast club it immediately made me think of the image in this post!

Sadly this belies my age and fondness for John Hughes movies. No, the better meetings breakfast club isn’t a Saturday detention for angst ridden teens. Rather it’s a chance to meet with Mike and other like minded people who are simply tired of having crap meetings and want to do something about it.

As the founder of Amazemeet Mike brings a wealth of experience to the table, he’ll be there to hear your frustrations and offer up suggestions about how things can be improved. Mike’s also there to learn your experiences and tips to get better meetings are super valuable so come along and share.

Oh and there will be coffee, tea, croissants and bacon sarnies!

WHEN: Friday the 21st February, 10:30am-11:30am

WHERE: Lantana London Bridge, 44-46 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1UN

*This event is not about selling, Amazemeet are committed to making meetings better for everyone. To do that we need to meet as many people as we can who are motivated for change. Sharing our experiences and ideas will help shape better meeting and a better working life for us all.

Sign me up for the Better Meetings Breakfast Club

Put some science into your meeting scheduling.

meeting scheduling

Putting some science into your meeting scheduling could be the answer If you’re struggling to get your meetings to reach their goals.

So let’s get this out the way, we’re not advocating using science for meeting scheduling as some kind of brainwashing* tactic! We wrote a few weeks ago about the post-prandial dip and how this can affect meetings, how to mitigate the effects and work it to your advantage. This post is very much a continuation of that. In our quest for ever better meetings we’re constantly exploring the variables that affect outcomes. Whether it’s better planning, meeting scheduling, attendee selection, follow up and most importantly the human element. They all play a role in getting the outcome we desire, which in most cases is why we have meetings in the first place pooling knowledge, insight and experience to work a problem and reach a goal.

*We’ll write a post about brainwashing next week – Ed.

Is there an optimal time to have a meeting?

According to UK company YouCanBookMe, who analysed data from more than two million responses to 530,000 meeting invitations, the best time to have a meeting is Tuesdays at 2:30pm. So from now on you can only have meetings on Tuesdays at 2:30pm. OK, so that’s not really practical especially when some of us spend 30% or more of our time in meetings. I’d also ask the question is this the best time or the most popular time for people to book meetings? It’s certainly true that Mondays tend to be a bad day for meetings, people are back at work, picking up on tasks and tend to be most productive. Does this infer that Tuesday is just the next earliest available day. We could even argue of these are external meetings with clients perhaps could the timing be designed to avoid buying lunch! It sounds almost silly but these are all questions to consider.

Let’s look at things from an Amazemeet perspective. We know that the culture of increasing numbers of meetings is bad and having more meetings is bad, certainly if you believe every study done into meetings in the work place. But, we keep having them and keep having more of them. This would suggest that behaviour is out of whack with effectiveness and efficiency. We could therefore argue that pinpointing a time based on an inherently flawed premise is also a complete red herring.

Let’s take a different view

Perhaps the answer lies in science. Rather than scheduling meetings at the most popular time why don’t we work towards the most effective time. Afternoon meetings, especially after lunch meetings are prime post-prandial dip territory. As we’ve discovered the effects can be mitigated but that suggests after lunch is not the “best” time.

The “best” time has to take into account of the type of meeting. Let’s take 4 examples:

  • The informational meeting, mainly announcements
  • The decision taking meeting, deciding on actions
  • The discovery meeting, discussing problems and solutions
  • The brainstorm, lots of ideas and blue sky

and here’s some science to work out which should happen when

The Best Time to Learn Something New

Learning is at its most effective when the brain’s in acquisition mode. This tends to be between 10:00 am to 2:00 p.m. and then again from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

This kind of meeting is definitely not something to do burning the midnight oil, the lowest learning valley occurs between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

The Best Time To Make a Decision

How often do we say let’s “sleep on it” it’s common for a reason: we make the worst decisions late at night and first thing in the morning. Your cognitive powers are strongest once your brain has a chance to shake off sleep inertia.

Sleep science research has pretty established that a good night’s sleep i.e. good quantity (7 to 9 hours at night) and good quality (a decent amount of that in deep REM state) allows your brain to properly ‘consolidate’ everything it has gathered in the day. It is literally when your brain has the time to process and build lasting memory and refresh what it already knows. So, as if by magic, the problem that seemed so wicked the night before, is solved when you awake.

Save important decisions for when you feel most alert, generally within one to three hours after waking up.

The Best Time To Brainstorm

The major irony here is that research has found that people are at their least creative when it’s demanded the most: normally at the heart of the workday, between 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Dr Michael Breus suggests leaning into “moments of groggy greatness” when we’re slightly tired and easily distracted. During these times, right and left brain communicate, which can trigger new and novel connections — and spark innovative ideas.

The Best Time to Ask for Money

No question, Friday afternoon. While this is the least productive day of the week, people are generally in a good mood. A positive outlook bodes well for asking for a raise or making a sale. Avoid Monday mornings — when people are the most stressed and grumpy — at all costs. Anecdotally there’s also something to be said for accents, it’s been proven that people trust Scottish accents the most when speaking to their bank. so next time money is involved make sure it’s Friday afternoon and you’ve practised your best Glaswegian accent.

These definitely aren’t 100% the answer every time but try it, you’ll be using science to schedule meetings that align with the way peoples brains work. A good first step when you’re using Amazemeet to plan your meetings is to think about the kind of meeting you’re having and schedule accordingly. We’d love to hear the outcome?

Need a simple tool to help plan your next perfect meeting?

Try Amazemeet, free.

Can we make the 5 hour work day a reality?

5 hour work day

There’s some debate about who actually created the 5 hour work day but most people (Forbes, Money etc) cite Lasse Rheingans – CEO of Rheingans Digital Enabler as one of the first companies to start a 5 hour work day.

Most of the 5 hour work day stories seem to have similar outcomes. Happier staff and increased productivity without a reduction in holiday or staff benefits, everyone wins. Amazing, so why doesn’t it work for everyone and why do we hear so many stories of people trying to implement it failing?

It’s all about focus

Working a 5 hour day requires real discipline, removing all the extraneous things we do on an average workday. Think about it:

  • Coffee, tea (whatever we don’t judge)
  • Snacks, see above
  • Chatting with colleagues
  • Irrelevant emails, phone calls texts
  • Day dreaming
  • MEETINGS, or most importantly pointless meetings

Losing all these things from our workday takes time, effort and discipline and it’s a struggle for most of us. Meetings (well they had to be didn’t they) are probably the biggest culprit, we know they’re a problem. In most cases it hovers between 35% and 50% of our work week spent in meetings, that’s a whopping amount of time! Image what life would be like with better meetings?

Let’s put that into context if you work a 45 hour week that’s 22.5 hours in meetings. Let’s be optimistic and say 50% of that meeting time is wasted, that’s about 11 hours a week. So there’s 2 hours a day saved!!

The rest just requires focus. I’ve been trying this for myself I recently decided to try an approach that focused 100% on tasks. I split this into 2-3 chunks each day of similar tasks and shut off every distraction and non-related activity. It works really well. I’ve found myself rattling through my tasks, making very few errors. More importantly though it’s de-cluttered my brain. My attention is spent working on the tasks at hand, thinking time is built in but it’s not off topic. I’d love to also say I’ve cut down pointless meetings, but we don’t really have those given what we do. I’m drinking less coffee and having breaks when I need them, win.

Taking the first step

Try a few things yourself. Turn your phone off for periods during the day, if you plan this well it will coincide with the times when you’re on your phone for non-work stuff. Try not to use chat during certain times, similar to the phone it’s a distraction. Turn your email off and only open it at set times during the day to check and reply.

It all sounds easy but it’s these things we use to break up the day and grab a mental rest, try it for yourself and see how you get on. Let us know we’d love to hear the outcome?

The biggy of course is meetings, try saying no to meetings! Ask yourself the question will I add value? If the answer is no then tell the organiser, they’ll likely thank you for it. When you organise meetings yourself, be disciplined, set an agenda, ask attendees if they feel they can contribute and be disciplined with the follow up.

If you can get close to the calculations we highlighted above you could be saving a whole day in time, that’s massive. The upside is obvious, less stress, more time with family, more time spent doing the things you want to do and more productivity for your company.

Good luck!!

Take the easy option, try Amazemeet to help make your meetings better

Cutting through the BS, who’s benefitting from Amazemeet?

So who’s benefiting from Amazemeet? Sometimes is easy to lose sight. But, we’re all about people, after all people have meetings!

So who’s benefiting from Amazemeet?
After all Amazemeet is a broad church, that’s certainly true of our user base, and so it should be as everyone deserves to have better, effective meetings. We speak to the Amazemeet community regularly so we thought we’d share the story of three people in very different roles and how they have used Amazemeet to free up time and make the meetings they do have better.

Johnny, large IT firm.

Johnny works at one of the big global IT companies. He’s got a hybrid role where he travels extensively and when he’s not he’s on video calls and conferences regularly. Because his time is often taken up travelling he wanted a way to make the meetings he does have more efficient. Amazemeet ticks that box perfectly. Using the platform Johnny can tailor each meeting so the attendees, timings, timescale and outcomes are all clearly laid out and defined. Shareable notes make it easy for him to catch up and keep everyone informed, especially around tasks and next steps.

"Amazemeet helps me stay organised and keeps my meetings efficient so i can spend time doing work not just reviewing work" Click To Tweet

Like a lot of people he’s found that using Amazemeet has really streamlined his meetings he and allows him to spend more time “doing” his job. This is essential because his role demands a lot of meetings. He’s now in a place where he spends far less of his evening’s catching up on actual work.

Kat, freelance strategist

Like a lot of people Kat left her role in a large consulting firm for the more flexible world of freelancing. Or so she thought. As she took on more clients she found herself having more and more meetings and spending more time account managing than actually delivering. Her goal was twofold, get her client contact under control and get her life back. Amazemeet helped with both. All Kat’s client meetings are run on Amazemeet and the client feedback is impressive.

"My clients love that I use Amazemeet, if nothing else they know my time is spent on my work for them not drinking coffee with them." Click To Tweet

Amazemeet has allowed her to structure her client meetings with clear goals and all invitees can be kept up to date with follow-ons. Much like Johnny getting the time back from meandering meetings has freed up time for work and her home life. Maybe the 5 hour working day is insight!

Peter, co-founder scale up

This is a familiar story. Start-up gets funded and grows, does well, has round two investment, grows some more. Somebody then realises that process and management haven’t grown, meetings take forever, there are too many with too many attendees. We’ve been there!

"We recognised we need to start operating like grown ups, meetings were a good place to start." Click To Tweet

Peter was desperate to find a way to get out of the bad meeting cycle that had taken hold. In fact many companies are experiencing this they just don’t recognise it. So as they say recognition of a problem is the first step to solving it. Pete started by trialling the free version, he liked it and soon all the companies meetings were being run via the platform. Time saved, he estimates, is up to 25% of the working week across the whole company, OK there’s only 35 people but that’s a hell of a lot of time.

So the next time you ask the question, who’s benefitting from Amazemeet, think of Johnny, Kat and Pete. I’m sure their stories are familiar. Better still why not tell us your story we’d love to hear it and share with the Amazemeet community. More importantly if you’re stuck in a cycle of bad meetings let us know, we can help.

Everyone should have great meetings, but not everyone does. Amazemeet is here to help try it FREE.

Christmas giving, bringing the Amazemeet community together.

Christmas giving

The response to our Christmas Giving campaign has been amazing, so many of you have voted for the cause you support the most.

I had the most amazing thing happen to me today. Totally unexpected but turned out to be one of the best feelings of the day.

Today was the the day I had penned in my calendar to make the donations that we promised to make as our Christmas gift – the one that we asked you to help direct.

I checked our counter and the results were humbling – and close!

Over 900 of you – Amazemeeters – responded to our Christmas Giving email and selected where you would like us to donate our $500 gift. The results were close, in 1st place was Climate Change and tied in 2nd place were Refugees and Children focused causes. In the end we decided to split the donation 250/125/125 so that each of these really important causes got something of our gift.

As I made the donation on each site and received the notifications of gratitude, I felt such a profound sense of contributing to something that otherwise seems so insurmountable. I felt proud that in a small way, we could help make a difference and for that I am incredibly grateful to each one of the Amazemeet users who engaged in this campaign.

There are Amazemeet users all over the world, so it was fitting that we picked some organisations that addressed climate change, refugee and child welfare on a global scale.

For climate change we selected the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN) – a truly international partnership of governments and organisations , communities that together have 90% of the world’s remaining rainforests under their management. They have an incredible duty and burden to protect this for all of Earth’s inhabitants.

We donated $250 to the Coalition for Rainforest Nations(CfRN)

To support refugees, we chose the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – the arm of the UN that is first on the scene when refugee crises happen, deploying vital aid and logistics to help those affected to get through it. In recent years – through conflict, environmental disaster, economic meltdown – they have been stretched to the limits and still they are there.

…and $125 to the United Nations High Refugee Agency (UNCHR)

Finally to help the cause of welfare of children, we selected UNICEF – the United Nations Children’s Fund – a UN agency that operates in 190 nations helping to uphold the rights of children to education, nutrition, health, equality and other incredibly important needs that many in the world take for granted. Unicef does this both at strategic levels with governments and in the field – for example leading childhood immunisation against nasty diseases like cholera, measles and others.

…and $125 to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef)

Whilst you’re here did you know we’ve just launched a new version of Amazemeet. Try it free.