Don’t Schedule Meetings Before 8:00am Or After 5:00pm

Just don’t.

May 5, 2015
Never schedule a work meeting before 8:00 am or after 5:00 pm. There will be someone on your team who needs to reserve these times to take care of family members. They can’t be in two places at one time. The fastest way to burn out good people is to make the balancing of work and family untenable.
My kids will both be out of the nest by 2017. Once they are launched, will I become one of those people who schedules early morning and evening meetings? Will I forget about the morning insanity to get everyone to childcare, pre-school, and the school bus. Will the pressures to get dinner on the table, homework and baths done, fade into misty memory? 
For the past 18 or so years the hours between 6:00 am and 8:00 am, and again between 5:00 pm and 9:00 pm, have been the most pressured. Compared to the morning rush and the evening craziness, going to work has been a breeze.
What is it that causes us to schedule early morning and evening meetings?  Is our work so important that it can’t be done in the hours between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm? Are we so busy that the only time to squeeze in meetings is to extend the working day? Have laptops and iPads and smart phones and e-mail had the effect of so eroding the work / home buffer that a scheduled early/late meetings feels normal?  
Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard for the existence of the pre-8:00 am / after-5:00 pm meeting: 
“These are the only times we can get everyone together, as people’s schedules are so crazy.” 
“We need to have very early or late meetings because we need more hours to meet.”
“It is important to get out regular work hours as we need to be able to think strategically, away from the distractions of our regular work.”
My modest proposal to the leaders and managers and directors scheduling these pre-8:00 am and post-5:00 pm meetings. Don’t do it. Create a bright line, and don’t cross it. Respect that employees are people with complicated lives, and that they will give more to the organization if the organization respects some boundaries. Realize that any short-term gain for scheduling very early / late meetings will be vastly outweighed by the stress that these meetings will cause some of your best folks.
What should you do if your boss schedules a pre-8:00 am or after 5:00 pm meeting? This is a tricky question. Many employees, and many employees in higher ed, don’t have very much power. It is easy to say that we should just "say no" to early morning and late meetings, but that choice does not exist for many. If you are someone with the autonomy and power to say no to non-regular work hours meetings, my advice is to go ahead and exercise that power. Even if an early or late meeting works for your schedule you should still decline (vocally) to attend. Be clear that you believe that the organization should promote, rather than inhibit, work / life balance.
How often do you have early morning or evening meetings?
Why do these meetings exist in your organization?

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Joshua Kim

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