If eight people are in a meeting for an hour, that is eight work hours being used up. That is a full day of work for an individual worker. Meetings can be very important for getting a message across or for collaborating with peers but maximum efficiency is important so those eight hours are valuable ones. One way to make meetings more efficient is a very simple change: get rid of the chairs. When there are no chairs, people feel a sense of urgency to finish up because no one wants to stand all day and people collaborate more as they can more easily change their position in the room if they cannot see the person talking or are asked to get into pairs or groups. Here are four reasons stand-up meetings boost efficiency.
1. Reduce Time Spent in Meetings
According to a Forbes article, replacing a sit-down meeting with a stand-up meeting can reduce the duration of the meeting by 25 percent. People want to sit down and so there is a sense of urgency to finish the meeting. This means some of the fluff gets cut away as people get to the point. Not to mention, a quick and productive meeting is probably much more fulfilling to participants than one that drags on longer than necessary.
At my last job, I recall my boss trying to start meetings talking at length about the weekend or bringing up a work topic that few felt particularly passionate about and then trying to pry opinions out of each and every one of us. We all knew the meeting would be long and many people tried not to engage for fear of making it longer. In the end, we usually came away with few conclusions or actions to be taken. However, if I passed the boss in the hall and we chatted about a project, it was never more than a five-minute conversation and I probably walked away with about half the conclusions and actionable items of a ninety-minute group meeting. We got to the point and went about our business.
2. Health Benefits of Getting Out of Your Chair
Have you heard the new buzz phrase that standing is the new smoking? I cannot even count how many times I have already heard it. I know what you are thinking – you exercise so no worries, right? Wrong. The Mayo Clinic wants you to get out of your chair, stand and move around because it is actually about the time sitting that is hurting you. Apparently, sitting for too many hours throughout the day significantly increases your chances of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and a number of other health complications that can lead to death even when controlling for fitness levels.
This means that the more you get out of your chair at work, the healthier you will be and we do not need Jillian Michaels to tell us that healthy people are more productive. It is pretty obvious. When you feel good, you can focus, think, engage, and get done what needs to get done a lot easier. Standing in place of sitting also gives people more energy and helps them to focus on the task at hand.
3. Improved Group Productivity
Part of productivity during meetings is the fact that people want to get things done when they are standing so they can get back to sitting, as was mentioned earlier, but there is more. When everyone is sitting at a table during a meeting, it is much easier to quietly send an e-mail, check your calendar, or text someone. Standing commands attention and thus everyone is more aware of other people’s actions. It is much more difficult to disengage from the meeting and do something on your laptop or on your phone. It is also more natural to listen and respond to people as standing stimulates a more attentive environment.
Take this all-too-common example. We have all been eating lunch or dinner with someone when suddenly they pull their phone out. What happens to the conversation? Suddenly it either pauses, becomes more one-sided, or maybe you yourself even disengage as well and pull out your phone. An engaging interaction of two people sharing ideas, thoughts, feelings, and stories has quickly been altered. In a sit-down meeting, people stealthily sending e-mails may look like they are taking notes when really they are not even listening or involved in the brainstorming that is going on. To be truthful, taking notes can be more difficult during a stand-up meeting as there may be no table or people may not be used to typing while standing or handwriting notes but more engaged participants may be a fair trade off.
4. Increase Collaboration
When you enter a room full of chairs and sit down, you have done more than just sit down. You have claimed your space probably for the remainder of the meeting. This means you will engage with only the things you see from your viewpoint and probably interact more with those seated near you unless a facilitator asks people to get up and move around the room. However, in a stand-up meeting, the absence of a chair means you do not have a physical indicator of your space and thus this becomes more fluid. If you are standing and cannot see something the person speaking is holding up, you are already standing and can easily move to somewhere where you can see what is going on and continue to be more engaged. Additionally, if you move around the room for whatever reason, you are less disruptive as you are not the person standing up and walking around in a room full of seated individuals.
What does this mean for collaboration? When the group is encouraged to discuss a topic with a partner or find a group for an activity, the environment is more conducive to moving around the room and interacting with more people rather than just those who are sitting near you. Also, as previously mentioned, people are more engaged and likely to interact with the group with standing as standing commands attention. Power dynamics within the group may also change and increase inclusivity as a sit-down meeting still may involve a leader standing up at a whiteboard thus creating further power distance between the group and its leader.
When we work together, share ideas and put various approaches to a problem on the table through collaboration, we are more likely to reach quality solutions quickly.
The general response to receiving a calendar invite to that Monday morning meeting is a collective groan because no one wants to sit for hours talking at length about topics and ending up with few results. Getting rid of chairs will not necessarily make meetings the highlight of your day but it will make them faster and more engaging. It will also reduce the amount of time you and your team spend sitting in chairs. If you work in a typical office, there really is not much down side to trying it out.
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