back to article Microsoft realises constant meetings stress people out, adds Office 365 settings to cut them short or start them late

Straight from Microsoft's Department of Stating the Bleeding Obvious come tweaks to its online productivity software based on research that found back-to-back meeting cause stress. As such, Microsoft has introduced settings in Office 365 that promote breaks by making these corporate congregations start late or finish early. …

  1. Khaptain
    Alert

    Question : Why do we have constant meetings

    Answer : Bad management..

    Why propose a solution for a completely different problem without proposing a means for improving the actual cause ?

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Question : Why do we have constant meetings

      Because it's the techno-utopian mindset:

      All problems anywhere in the world can be resolved through technology. We can patch around human nature.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: Question : Why do we have constant meetings

      It's Microsoft Teams that constantly stresses me out: it's slow, unreliable, worse in every way that Office 365 whilst oddly offering similar kinds of functionality (why do I have a calendar in Outlook and in Teams?), it has the worst audio and video performance of every videoconferencing thing I have to use (yes, even Skype), it's bloated and regularly crashes.

      If you are reading this and work on Teams for Microsoft, then you are scum and have helped bring even more misery to the corporate world. Sorry, but you are.

      I feel slightly better now. But I still hate Teams.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: Question : Why do we have constant meetings

        why do I have a calendar in Outlook and in Teams?

        Because they're the same calendar, not two different calendars.

  2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Features

    What is new here is the idea that organisational settings can prod employees into scheduling meetings that allow for breaks automatically. The counter-argument is that it is the human that should tell the calendar the time of the meeting, not vice versa.

    There are always those managers who insist that a meeting should run right up until the scheduled end time and refuse to turn people loose, despite the lack of productive conversation occurring. Maybe this feature will help deal with those people.

    Being able to reply to specific messages sounds great; it's remarkable how few chat programs implement it.

    Finally, I would love to see a feature to automatically squelch notifications from new chats when the user is actively chatting with someone already. It could be called Take a Fucking Number mode.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is...

    Everyone wants you at the same time. I

    Scheduled meetings for tomorrow morning has me in 9 different meetings. Some optional, some not and some with a tendancy to run over.

    All before 11....

    The worst is I feel I never get time alone unless it's gone 11 and the rest of the family has gone to sleep.

    At least in the time before I would get time in the house alone on occasion when the wife took the kids elsewhere. Now, nope. The bath is the most peace I get in a day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem is...

      Book an appointment for lunchtime and an appointment for the end of the day for the whole week.

      1. Steve Kerr

        Re: The problem is...

        This!

        I book every lunchtime as a meeting and the end of my working day + 1 hour as meeting too.

        This stops those sociopaths who book meetings from 12:30-13:30 - seriously? You book things in a way that makes people either have an early lunch or a late lunch - we have several that do this, have mentioned this to them that they shouldn't do it, I'll decline such meetings.

        When in the office in the past, always went out at lunchtimes, even if it meant costing more money in lunch, number of times sitting at my desk where I either had a fork or sandwich half way to my mouth and someone utters the immortal words - "Are you at lunch?

        Have had a number of back to back meetings - it would be nice to actually have time to do my job!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The problem is...

          "Sorry to crash calendars, it is urgent we get Q3 commitments documented in Rally by COB, I agreed with CxO that we would be complete then at my coord with CxO last month. This is the first I'm telling you about it and the only context you get is the one liner at the top of the meeting notice because I'm senior to you. Oh and I haven't a clue what you do day to day, but it can't be that important that I can't get you to do my homework too."

          This is my day, 6 hours a day every day. For me it is bad, but for my colleagues in India it is worse as meetings can run to midnight for them (US company with a suicide mission mentalilty to every project) and their local management fills their mornings with more pointlessness.

          ac because c.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The problem is...

        Last job I used to do that... Then Managers (or rather, their overworked PA's) would complain that people are not available in the timeslot they wanted. In the end, they just ignored it and booked you in anyway.

        How long until retirement?

        1. grumpyoldeyore
          Coat

          Re: The problem is...

          I decided that the stress of working out if I could to afford to retire was less than the constant head-banging against a manager who would put the whole company ( approx 80 people) in "required" and the people that were needed in "optional". And don't get me started on the colleagues who would lob up 15 minutes late, interrupt progress to apologise for being late then demand to know what they'd missed.

          Oh, and I needn't have stressed the financials.

          Off to walk the dogs.

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: The problem is...

      I've received meeting appointments where they say "I see you're busy at this time but I'd like you to attend this meeting"

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    What would be better is if the standard meeting lengths were 25 or 55 minutes - so at least giving you five minutes between meetings.

    1. Khaptain

      Would be better if the meeting lasted 15 minutes and a decision is made, rather than anything longer where no decision is arrived at.

      If after the 15 minutes a decision is not made then it means that those present were either not prepared or that the decision maker needs time to digest the information..

      In any event a secondary meeting would be required, but again only 15 minutes... Keep it simple, keep it quick , keep it moving.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Combine it with another office fad, the treadmill desk.

        All meetings to be held while all the participants run on treadmills.

        I guarantee that meeting duration would be inversely proportional to the BMI of the manager involved.

        1. jake Silver badge

          BMI is a completely useless measure of anything except the intellect of the person who thinks it is useful. For example, according to the BMI, Arnold "da Governator" Schwarzenegger in his T-800 body is morbidly obese.

        2. mmccul

          Alas, one manager I had was a triathlete. Running for a few hours would not be abnormal for them.

        3. Korev Silver badge

          My "big boned" manager probably wouldn't survive a treadmill run, I'd end up going through managers like the BOFH...

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
            Devil

            And this is a problem because...?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We theoretically have a "meeting hour" where meetings start five minutes after the start of the hour and end five minutes before the end of the hour for this reason. This, and the more major policy about core hour meetings when possible is simply not followed.

    3. gobaskof

      What would be better is if the standard meeting lengths were 25 or 55 minutes - so at least giving you five minutes between meetings.

      Hi A Non e-mouse,

      Just saw you have a 5 min gap in your calendar. I scheduled a quick call as I have an update. Shouldn't take long.

      Best wishes

      Someone you hate, but who is too senior for you to tell them where to shove it

    4. Def Silver badge

      I've been scheduling all meetings to be five minutes shorter than the (half) hour for my team for a while now.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Scheduling is one thing, keeping them focused, on track, and running to time is another; don't see how MS's great idea is going to help with this.

        1. Def Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          No, that's more down to the people involved.

          Our project meetings usually finish quite early. (Mainly because I don't want to be stuck in them anymore than anyone else.)

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            My point exactly; running meetings well is a soft skills issue.

        2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

          In my experience, meetings that take the full time or overrun frequently fail to have a clearly defined expected output.

  5. gobaskof

    Single organisation calendar quirks cause havock when you collaborate

    My work has a timetable where all meeting start at 15 past the hour. Not to give us a 15 minuite break, just the entire work schedule is shifted by 15 mins because of a historic. long-changed, bus schedule. Now try having a time table where everything starts 15 mins late, but then you need to work with people on a normal schedule it just gets a bit weird. Sometimes you get a nice break between an external 1h meeting and and internal meeting. Often you end up either having meeting clash or having a 45 min meeting butting up into another meeting.

    Human nature is that meetings end when the agenda is done, or when too many people have their next meeting. If every "well-being champion" (or whatever they are called this month) starts enabling early late starts and early ends in their companies calendar's you will start to get the carnage we have here. Combine with the fact that some programs will follow the defaults others wont.

    If you want to promote work-life-balance, then do something meaningful to assess the work life balance of your staff and intervene if necessary. All this setting does is create a new set of scheduling headaches. Eventually someone may try to then stick my head in an EEG cap so they can tell me that scheduling headaches are causing me stress. That person may get shanked.

  6. jake Silver badge

    CLI for the win!

    "Where's the PowerShell command to ban all meetings forever?"

    Does format c: still work?

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    FAIL

    Typical Borkzilla

    Two possible values : short or long.

    We're not talking about programming, medium should be possible.

    In any case, short at 60 minutes is way too long. Short is 15 minutes, and all of us who have been working this past year know very well that hour-long meetings are 50% repeating what everyone already knows, 30% listening to inane comments, 15% telling someone that his microphone is muted and 5% actual information.

    As a manager, if you need to block your team for an entire hour to inform yourself on progress, you're doing it wrong. There's a big chance that Sally doesn't need to know about Jack's problems, and is wasting time listening to them. You're the manager. Do a one-on-one with each member of your team to get updated, then write a summary memo for everyone. The entire team should only be present if you have an important global message to broadcast.

    Meetings are generally very much a waste of everyone's time, and nowadays a golden opportunity for the feeble-minded among the higher-ups to make themselves feel important by dragging things along when they could pass the message in a concise manner. I cannot count the amount of time I've wasted in the past twelve months listening to inane babble instead of working, but it is starting to get on my nerves.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Typical Borkzilla

      As a manager, if you need to block your team for an entire hour to inform yourself on progress, you're doing it wrong. There's a big chance that Sally doesn't need to know about Jack's problems, and is wasting time listening to them. You're the manager.

      For the size of teams I manage (all less then 10) I disagree.

      Before lockdown I'd have weekly meetings with each team and during the meeting someone would mention something and others would pick up on it and they'd discuss the topic. It was my job to tread the fine line between allowing this to happen as it was a Good Thing and stopping the discussion going waaayyyy off topic or the meeting dragging on.

      Now with lockdown, I tend to be a bit more lenient on keeping team meetings focused as it's bloody good for everyone's mental health just to have a little bit of group banter.

  8. nintendoeats Silver badge

    The idea that you can change how long a meeting will be by altering a number in a program is laughable (unless that number is how many pizzas you are going to order everybody for when the meeting is over).

  9. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Office 9 to 5

    Office 365

  10. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Big Brother

    No more email stress

    MS also pushed a new version of Outlook to my corporate iPhone last night, which seems to be trying to reduce my email stress levels by force closing when you try and open it. Worked too, had an evening of just watching the little counter icon go up and up without being able to actually read anything (at least without booting up the laptop).

    And of course there was an email in Outlook on aforesaid laptop this morning telling us that MS had informed our IT drones that iOS Outlook was borked and email wasn't accessible. Fix is apparently due to roll out sometime today. Yup, a twist on the age-old trope of the email to inform you that email is down...

  11. thondwe

    Infinite Rooms

    One issue with Teams/Zoom meetings is they don't require a room while everyone is still working from home - result is even more meetings! In the old days meetings were a little constrained by having to get a room.

    As we return, it seems every room is going to be enabled for Zoom/Teams so - the constraint issue re-appears - but will anyone notice - we'll all be Zooming from the desk - always wanted to work in a call centre...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Infinite Rooms

      To those lucky enough to not have remote WFH before the interesting times... I welcome you to our hell.

      You merely adopted the video call. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn't see the office until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but a building to hold more video calls!

      That said, Teams/Zoom - waaaaaaaaaay better than Webex any day of the week. The only thing it did better was phone calls, but teams/zoom voice works more than well enough to not need to make calls.

  12. Danny Boyd

    All that's thanks to COVID

    I've noticed since we started working remotely, the meeting load intensified significantly. Fortunately, there are not too many meetings I really must attend, so I ignore the rest, which gives me a chance to get something done.

    I think the reason for this meeting fever is the managers' inherent desire to micro-manage. When they see their subordinates every day, they are more or less relaxed. When they don't see the subordinates day after day, their managerial glands get excited, and they start inventing meetings just to check if the subordinates are still around, and to remind the subordinates the managers still exist and do something "proactively".

    Then again, some of my colleagues definitely feel lonely working from home, so they jump to every opportunity to communicate, no matter what about, and attend all the meetings. So maybe it's not a bad thing after all.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: All that's thanks to COVID

      For me, the meeting load has increased as you can't just bump into someone and have a quick chat about something.

  13. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Unhappy

    Oh good

    Another new "feature" that the users will complain is distracting them when they're in meetings and sys admins will have to find out how to turn off.

    Because you know that the ones who want the meetings to overrun so they can shout at their underlings are going to be the only ones that complain, so upper management will decide "well nobody likes this feature"...

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Oh good

      >so upper management will decide "well nobody likes this feature"...

      It won't just be upper management, but MS pulling the plug on it, based on the telemetry...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two or more at once

    My favourite thing is when two or 3 meetings clash, so I can apologise to each of them that I have a schedule clash and do some work instead.

    I had a former colleague who got up 5 mins into a meeting full of senior managers and said that the meeting was a waste of everyone's time, then walked out. He got away with it because he was right and (almost) everyone knew it.

  15. notyetanotherid

    Is it just me...

    or is the 4th meeting, no break EEG a reworking of Edvard Munch's The Scream?

    1. bigphil9009

      Re: Is it just me...

      Great spot!! It totally is! :)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cortana... more like clapped out Lada!

    Opened my O365 inbox Mon morning to find this...

    "Welcome to your new daily Briefing email from Cortana." "You are receiving this email because Briefing emails are currently on within your organization. You can unsubscribe here." "You'll receive a Briefing email whenever you have upcoming meetings to prepare for and recent tasks you may have missed so that you can make the most of each day."

    It had only managed to find one hit in all of the mailbox+calender+teams. The snippet included from the email was "Please email us to let us know, and don't copy or", which is obviously part of the standard company 'disclaimer' at the bottom of the email

    It completely missed a bunch of emails with subjects like 'action required' and 'unpaid invoices'!

    I unsubscribed... it asked why I was unsubscribing and I would have like to have ticked all the options but settled on 'about as useful as a chocolate fireguard'

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hate Teams.

    I hate Teams.

  18. bigphil9009

    Alert! It is now Praise Time!

    I would posit that if you have to set a reminder to give your team members praise, you probably shouldn't be a manager.

    Praise that is prompted by an alert is no real praise at all. Praise should be ad-hoc, justified, meaningful and genuine.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A theory

    Companies that go for Teams are more likely to be old school, non-people focused companies.

    1. nintendoeats Silver badge

      Re: A theory

      As opposed to all those modern companies that REALLY care about their employees?

      Though, I can confirm that my employer uses Teams and they hail from the olden days (recently found out that they were approached about designing video hardware for the IBM 5150).

  20. A.P. Veening Silver badge

    My current solution is to ask for a number to book the meeting on. Booking nine hours of meetings every day of the week (so one hour overtime every day) is a very good way to avoid doing anything and no manager can complain the work isn't getting done. Getting the actual work done is now SEP as far as I am concerned.

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