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The benefit of a no-meeting work day

Posted 11.08.21

Let’s rewind to 2020. We anticipate that lockdown will be a two-week break from work; we are all simultaneously learning how to make banana bread and whipped coffee while downloading TikTok on our phones to pass the time. We’ve been told we may have to work from home for the foreseeable… I guess we will find a way to somehow adjust.

The year is now 2021, and we’ve been told we need to go back to the office… but we have now found seamless processes to elevate our working-from-home experience. Some of us have developed a rhythm, become a lot more productive and found ways to integrate autonomous working… but do we want to go back?

Wilderness rolled out its Deep Work Wednesdays (DWW) initiative early on in lockdown as a way to revolutionize the working-from-home process. Now that we are returning to the office, we’re considering the importance and usefulness of this concept and whether it’s something we should embed in our new routines.

Working from home stilted many processes – namely, the ability to have a free-flowing conversation that would last about two minutes in the office. It’s just not the same over Slack, and employee calendars tend to be chock-full of meetings as a way to replace these interactions.

DWW is an initiative that ensures no meetings take place on Wednesdays and encourages all staff members to turn off their notifications to allow them to put their heads down and work throughout the day.

Statistics show that the average employee attends 62 meetings each month, spending a fifth of their work hours in meetings that are unproductive at best.

Wilderness’s paid social media manager, Katie Nicols, shares her thoughts on the usefulness of DWW: “In previous agencies, days are taken up by meetings and it interrupts the momentum and flow of the day. Normally you can play a day in your head, but one meeting can throw off your priorities, so it’s a focused day to get everything sorted and refreshed. It’s the most incredible initiative I have heard of in an agency.”

Of course, having an empty calendar may seem like a daunting concept to be confronted with, and it may even seem stressful entering the day without the structure of a meeting or phone call.

But Nicols reveals what she does to make the most of her DWW: “I write down a to-do list on Tuesday evenings and prioritize my list of things to do. I set up my desk with a notepad, my physical to-do list and anything I will need for the DWW. I prefer physical lists that I can tick off and visibly look at during the day, but that’s just my preference. When I start the day I just work my way through that list, and because nothing throws it off track and I don’t have to think about what I am doing next, it allows me to focus on the task I am currently doing and forget about everything else.”

DWW is supposed to give employees set time to work without distraction, but the temptation to add just one meeting into an otherwise empty day could sway some to rebel against the initiative. Wilderness understands the burden that having even one meeting could have on ruining the flow of work in the day and making employees less productive and efficient, so the agency is strict about implementing these rules.

But of course, a DWW day won’t always suit all work styles. Zahra Hasan, insights lead at Wilderness, admits: “Sometimes I won’t be as productive on a DWW, and it will feel like a wasted day.”

Top tips for implementing a DWW day:
– Write down a list of absolutely everything you have to do before the day starts to keep focused.

– Whatever the task is – whether it’s sorting out your inbox or foldering your emails – put it on the list and make sure you really use the day for its maximum effect.

– Always have a notepad next to you. That way, if you have any burning questions unanswered from the day, you can seek responses to them the next day.

As companies start to return to offices, we’ve had to consider the effectiveness of DWW in an office space and whether it should be an initiative that remains at home to leave the office as a space for collaboration and maximum team communication.

DWW can exist in many forms – it can be as simple as putting your headphones in for a few hours a day to listen to a podcast episode or a playlist; it’s basically doing whatever suits your productivity. Employees should work through their priorities without allowing themselves to get distracted.

At Wilderness, we are currently continuing with Monday and Tuesdays as work-from-home days, and the remainder of the week as working from the office, so we’ve moved the autonomous working day to Tuesday, as it’s now such an integral part of our agency working culture.

Ayesha Fatima – Social Media Apprentice

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