May 6, 2021

The problem with meeting-free Fridays

New rules meant to curb meeting fatigue are well-meaning, but don’t get to the root issue – you’re working the wrong way

Earlier this year, banking giant Citigroup encouraged employees to try and avoid scheduling internal video meetings on Fridays. Part of a larger effort to alleviate the weariness of working during a pandemic, the move’s primary aim is to cut down on time spent staring at a screen, especially during non-business hours.

But the new policy has a caveat: meetings with external stakeholders like clients and regulators still have to go forward, Fridays included. The likely result? Internal meetings moved to Monday through Thursday will simply push external meetings to Friday, delivering the opposite of the intended result: another day full of video meetings.

It’s inevitable that many employers will continue to make these well-intentioned policies as workers recalibrate after more than a year of working from home or in drastically altered office situations. But none of these measures really solve the problem of so-called Zoom fatigue, which is that video conferencing platforms aren’t really a sustainable answer to the remote work question.

Within3’s pharmaceutical and medical device customers already know this, because they’re using hybrid engagement – a combination of real-time virtual and asynchronous engagement – to tackle more complex ongoing work like virtual advisory boards, steering committee activities, publication development, and other multifaceted projects that can’t be contained or completed within a one-hour call. Video calls are definitely here to stay, but they’re not a one-size-fits-all answer. And when they’re scheduled back-to-back, all day, every day, they can also be detrimental to insight gathering and other activities key to so many life science teams.

Clients report that they see increased participation – usually close to or at 100% – when they shift in-depth discussions to an asynchronous format. Because KOLs are able to log in to these sessions when they’re most ready to work (and not multitask or simply go through the motions), insights are more thoughtful, too. Even advisors who might be content to let more dominant personalities lead the way in a face-to-face discussion tend to be prolific contributors in an over-time format. For life science teams that depend on actionable feedback from physician virtual advisory boards, these are game-changers with a significant impact on project outcomes.

As companies return to something approaching business-as-usual, the all-day video call habit will be a tough one to break for those who aren’t willing to innovate. Transforming the way teams engage with each other and with external stakeholders doesn’t happen overnight, but it will separate organizations that are leading the charge – and grabbing a distinct competitive advantage, not to mention developing more agile, risk-proof engagement strategies – from those who’ll lag behind.

To learn about hybrid virtual engagement in action, read a customer success story about a medical affairs team that conducted a virtual preceptorship without losing any of the benefits – two-way interaction, collaborative learning – typically found in a face-to-face meeting.