How To Improve Staff Meetings To Reduce Workload

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How do we improve staff meetings to reduce workload?

Staff meetings are seen by many as a huge time-waster. Often poorly organised, with no fixed agenda, many either overrun or leave you feeling as flat as a pancake. 

This post aims to provide some ideas to improve staff meetings to reduce workload and therefore increase teacher wellbeing.

1. Have you explored the alternatives?

Is a meeting really necessary?

Too many meetings seem to be held for the sake of holding a meeting. They are notorious time-stealers. If schools are serious about teacher workload and improving wellbeing then meetings are a last resort.

As an alternative, use collaboration tools to work as a team on a project. For example, Google’s G Suite (including Google Docs and Google Sheets) provides an easy solution to get everybody to contribute without actually getting them together in the same space. Colleagues can edit, comment and add to team documents at a time to suit them.

Is the meeting necessary for everyone?

For some meetings, it may be possible to send one member of the team and they can feed back what is relevant at a later date.

Try to avoid meetings at particularly busy points in the calendar unless absolutely essential. To truly promote staff wellbeing, avoid lunchtime meetings. Everyone needs a lunch break and is entitled to one.

2. Prepare beforehand

Send out a set agenda

Having an agenda should avoid a lack of purpose and allow everyone involved to consider their own expectations ahead of the meeting. It is commonplace to tack on AOB but perhaps these issues could be resolved outside of the meeting by email to the specific people involved. Better still, don’t have AOB because all relevant business should be included.  

Alternatively, if people can raise their hand to add in extra information then surely they could have added it to the meeting agenda? That way the meeting end time should be reliably punctual.

Send out any materials 48 hours ahead of time

This shows careful planning and gives people a chance to read the information in order to gain the most out of the meeting.

3. Tips for during the meeting

Meeting outcomes should be considered carefully

For department meetings, time should be used for teaching and learning development. The team could be building up their subject knowledge, showcasing best practice or collaboratively planning.

Ideally, there should be clear outcomes from the meeting that give staff a sense of achievement and enables them to tick something off their own to-do list.

Make the meeting shorter

Time is precious so where possible aim for 30 minutes or less.  Some workplaces encourage colleagues to stand up during a meeting to encourage creativity and pace.

Make sure the meeting starts and ends on time or even 2 minutes early and don’t waste valuable time by repeating that you ’want to keep this short’.  

Plan the meeting

Meetings are often unproductive because staff are multitasking (mostly by checking and responding to their emails!). To discourage this, plan the meetings as you would a lesson:

  • Make the meetings active and engaging.
  • Stop using PowerPoint – and if you absolutely have to, limit the words on a slide. People will switch off otherwise.
  • In a smaller team, give everyone a job – timekeeping, taking minutes, bringing snacks (energy levels are low at the end of the day).
  • Don’t talk for too long!
  • Don’t repeat information that staff have read or heard elsewhere. You have to presume that staff are reading the bulletin. If you read it to them then you are reinforcing the idea that there’s no need for them to read it, which leads to the information within the bulletin having less value. We have high expectations of the students so we should have equally high expectations of the staff. 

4. What to do after the meeting

Send out a summary including any work to be done

Keep this brief and include any relevant links to suggested reading or documents to complete. Keep in mind you are trying to minimise workload as much as possible to allow your staff to use their time productively to complete the tasks alongside their planning.

If you have any more ideas for improving meetings then please post them in the comments.

Amy Chadderton

Amy Chadderton is an international science teacher currently based in Bangkok. She has previously worked in Shanghai and before that taught for 7 years in the UK. Amy achieved Lead Practitioner status in the UK and is particularly interested in how educational technology is enhancing teaching in a number of ways. As a parent of two young children, Amy is fascinated by how their outlook on the world is increasingly shaped by their adventures as third culture children.

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