Survey says: No-meeting program to continue

More than seven of 10 Fermilab employees who took part in a September survey voted in favor of continuing the no-meetings initiative. The program is not mandatory and can adjust to fit team preferences.

The no-meetings initiative to limit meetings on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons was put in place to help Fermilab employees manage their time and energies more effectively. Launched as a pilot in June 2021, the program will continue, thanks to positive feedback received through a survey of employees in September.

A survey was sent to a random sample of 498 employees. At a 41% response rate, more than seven out of 10 voted in favor of continuing the initiative. Those who voted “yes” cited increased productivity (61%), uninterrupted time (86%) and reduced stress (82%) as some of the key benefits they experienced during the three-month pilot.

“We are pleased the vast majority of survey respondents found value in limiting meetings,” said Laboratory Benefits Manager and Acting Deputy Head of HR Jennifer Gondorchin. “Close to 70% of the respondents participated in the pilot program, with the rest not having a lot of meetings or not aligning with these specific timeframes. It’s amazing that such a simple change can have such a positive impact on employees’ work lives.”

Gondorchin added that the program is not mandatory; it is simply a tool employees can leverage. “We all have different styles and rhythms of working, and we understand no one-size fits all. If Monday a.m. and Friday p.m. don’t work for your team, pick times that do,” she said. She also pointed out that the program only applies to lab-specific meetings – those with outside collaborators and stakeholders are exempt.

Chief Human Resources Officer Anju Jain said the no-meetings program was introduced as a way to lessen the potential impact of meeting fatigue. “We recognized the need to give employees a break from back-to-back and ad hoc meetings to allow time for uninterrupted, focused work,” Jain said. She added that research shows it takes more than 20 minutes to regain focus on a task once you are sidetracked.

“Blocking off specific hours allows for undisturbed time for planning, recapping the week or working on bigger-picture projects that require focus and concentration,” Jain said. “These protected hours encourage the flow of critical work that is crucial for our wellbeing, productivity and quality outcomes.”

Jain also recommends taking steps to ensure the meetings we hold are efficient. “Before calling a meeting, think hard about whether you really need it, the necessary meeting duration and who should attend, limiting invitees to those who are needed to provide necessary value. If you proceed, post an agenda and material for pre-reads; follow good meeting etiquette; end on time; and adjourn with clear action items and a follow-up plan,” she said.