Too Many Work Meetings? Here’s What Happens When You Build a Company That’s Intentional About Meetings
Companies have work meetings for everything — product launches, design feedback, company announcements, onboarding, strategic thinking, sales alignment, everything.
Yet, meetings — especially too many meetings — take up valuable time. They cost money. They leave out important perspectives. And they don’t support the deep thinking and discussions that make companies succeed.
We believe there’s a better way to work. So when we started Threads, we built our company with the intention of being picky about what warrants a meeting. In doing so, we discovered that by replacing meetings with asynchronous communication, we became more productive, did better work, and even enjoyed it more.
Why Change the Status Quo of Work Meetings?
In our experience, working primarily through meetings didn’t serve the people, our priorities, or the business as a whole.
Meetings Often Cost More Time and Money Than They’re Worth
Unnecessary meetings cost U.S. businesses 31 hours a month and $37 billion a year in attendee salaries, according to Atlassian. With some number crunching, you can figure out a more specific cost of meetings for your company.
Let’s say that every Monday you hold an hour-long stand-up for all of your team leads to announce what’s planned for the week ahead. You pay each of those five managers $80,000 a year. That works out to $6,154 to work 160 hours a month, or about $38.50 an hour.
That single weekly stand-up costs your company $770 every month. Not too bad, right? When you figure in that most employees attend 62 meetings a month, the cost of meetings becomes much more concerning.
That price tag might be justified if every single work meeting lasted only as long as it needed to, remained relevant for every single person in attendance, and gave everyone the context they needed to do their best work. But many meetings don’t.
Meetings Don’t Facilitate Knowledge Work
They don’t give people time or space to bring their best ideas. Instead, meetings require people to think on the fly or with partial context. While that suits some personalities just fine, not everyone is comfortable or capable of doing that.
That’s a problem because as the economy shifts to prioritize knowledge work over transactional work, the teams that can efficiently create and compound on knowledge will thrive. Companies that work primarily through meetings won’t be able to keep up. They won’t be able to leverage the thoughtful discussions that lead to better decisions and more strategic thinking.
Meetings Aren’t Inclusive
The more people you try to cram into a meeting, the more problems arise. Interruptions make it difficult to deliver meaningful information. Tangents derail the meeting from its intended purpose. The most vocal people dominate the discussion. And there’s often not enough time to hear everyone’s perspective.
Then there are the people who weren’t invited to the meeting or couldn’t make it at the scheduled time because of time-zone incompatibility or a scheduling conflict. Those people don’t get access to the information shared in the meeting, nor do they get the opportunity to share their ideas on the topic at hand.
Work suffers when it isn’t inclusive. Instead of using everyone’s ideas and information to arrive at more informed decisions, we work from partial context. This makes it easier to overlook potential problems or solutions, undermining your team, product, and business.
The Threads Approach to Work and Meetings
We do almost all our work at Threads asynchronously on the Threads product. This includes product proposals, design reviews, pricing strategy, customer feedback, company announcements, onboarding, and a lot more.
Unlike meetings, which happen in real-time in 30-minute to hours-long sessions, asynchronous work is done over time when it makes the most sense for the people involved. So, for brainstorming new sales narratives, for example, we forgo packing everyone onto a Zoom call and instead discuss it in Threads.
The Threads product is an asynchronous work-communication platform. It provides companies with a single space to collaborate and store their knowledge.
To make this work, we dedicate a new “space” for each project, topic, and team. A space is a section within the Threads product that contains all of the discussions related to a specific topic.
People can then create a new “thread” within a space to discuss the particulars of what they’re working on.
Chances are, you’ve used something like this before. Since the public debut of the World Wide Web in 1991, the consumer world has used internet forums to explore ideas, share progress made on hobbies and projects, offer advice, and discuss topics thoughtfully. Threads is the equivalent for the workplace.
Spaces and threads aren’t all that dissimilar to subreddits and posts on Reddit, or sub-forums and topics on online forums. The Threads platform also offers some of the same popular features as online forums, such as nested replies to keep conversations organized and easy to follow, as well as the ability to “like” comments as a quick touchpoint.
A Quick Example: A Product Proposal in Threads
In a traditional workplace, representatives across several teams crowd into a meeting room to discuss a new product proposal. Often enough, the discussion gets derailed, the message is misconstrued, and team leads return to their people with missing information or without clear next steps.
We eliminate those downsides by handling all product proposals asynchronously on the Threads platform. Our product managers can clearly articulate their proposals by publishing them in a new thread. They can then loop in the right stakeholders (and keep track of who has seen their message) by tagging them in the thread. There, everyone can contribute and have a thoughtful discussion. When they’re ready to make a decision, they can mark it clearly in the thread itself, so everyone stays aligned on what matters.
This context sets a baseline of knowledge for our people to continue to grow and refine in their own work. A designer could pull one idea that didn’t work for this product proposal into something new in the future. A developer tasked with another project could circle back with an answer to a question the team didn’t know. A marketing manager might revive the thread with new information that frames the product proposal in a whole new light.
The Role Work Meetings Play at Threads
Just because we believe in doing most of our work in the Threads platform doesn’t mean there’s no time and place for meetings in our company.
We use meetings for two kinds of work: urgent and emotional. If something urgent comes up, such as a site outage, we’ll hold a meeting with a few key people to quickly find and implement a solution. We believe that if something needs immediate attention from a select few, a meeting is the best way to align and take action.
Likewise, we’ll rely on a meeting to do more emotional work, such as introducing new teammates or discussing performance. We often schedule meetings for small social gatherings, such as 1:1s to catch up with teammates and managers. On occasion, we’ll host a company-wide Q&A where our CEO Rousseau Kazi will answer questions in real time.
These meetings give us opportunities to connect face-to-face with the people we work with. They’re focused less on getting work done and more on building strong work relationships.
“Meetings [make you feel] like you are progressing, which is probably why most people spend their days in meetings. However, I think if you break apart most meetings, they serve two functions: having everybody in one place at a time, and sharing and collaborating on ideas, projects, and goals. The former can only be done synchronously, but the latter works better asynchronously.” — Chris Martellotti, business development & sales at Threads
What Happens When You Replace Too Many Meetings with Asynchronous Work?
You save time. You do better work. You make your people happy. At least that’s what happened for us at Threads.
Multiple Hours Saved Per Month
Remember that Atlassian study that found that the average worker wastes 31 hours on unnecessary meetings? Our team spends, on average, only X hours in meetings every month, (and since we reserve meetings for urgent and emotional work, we believe none of those hours are wasted). That means they get more focused, uninterrupted time to work.
By doing the bulk of our work in Threads, we keep entire discussions in a central place that everyone can access. We don’t need to host multiple meetings rehashing the same information, clarifying what was said in the last meeting, or getting new stakeholders up to date. Instead, we can share information with everyone who needs to know and make progress at once.
“I only have two 30-minute stand-ups a week and a single one-on-one session. The rest of my time is just fully focused, pure dedication to what I need to do to get my job done.” — Cassie Chao, head of recruiting at Threads
Better Work, Decisions, and Business
The work we do, our product, our business strategy, and our company as a whole are better because we work asynchronously in Threads.
Everyone on our team has access to all the work happening in the company. This means at any point, anyone can chime in with an idea, experience, or perspective that can change the course of a conversation.
What’s more, by working asynchronously, our people have time to think about and prepare for discussions. This empowers them to bring their best research and ideas.
Smarter, Happier People
Everyone at Threads gets full context on all the work that’s happening within the company. This gives them more opportunities to learn from the work that others are doing. They can see what’s working at Threads, what isn’t, and how they can apply past experiences to their own projects.
Context also gives everyone a voice. Anyone can jump in and contribute their ideas and relevant experiences, even if the work isn’t directly related to them.
We’ve also discovered that Threads helps build stronger connections among teammates. Instead of leaving a 1:1 call and returning to solo work, Threads makes work more collaborative and open. Anyone can dive into Threads and access all of the conversations happening in the company. They can see what their teammates are working on and what topics they’re most passionate about. And they can hop into any conversation at any time.
“Imagine if you were able to join a company, and then, in the first three days, they put you in a time machine and let you sit in on the past 200 meetings. You would just be like, ‘Wow, that's how Rosalee made that decision' or 'That's how Rousseau structured his stuff to inspire everyone.'” — Rousseau Kazi, Threads CEO and cofounder
Cancel the Meeting, Start a Thread
Meetings still fulfill an important role in the workplace. The problem arises when teams rely too much on them to get their work done. By being more intentional about what work requires a meeting and what work is better done asynchronously, teams can move faster, make better decisions, and feel more fulfilled in their work.