The 8 a.m. meeting debate: 5 health systems weigh in

Flexibility is currency in today's talent market. As companies lean into work-life balance, pre-pandemic meeting practices have been called into question

Should 8 a.m. meetings be taken off the table? Are meeting-free Fridays the way of the future? The answer is less clear-cut in the healthcare industry, where operations are 24/7 — so Becker's connected with five health systems' human resources leaders to learn how they're approaching meeting practices. 

Given providers' busy schedules, early morning meetings are still commonplace at most systems. But every organization Becker's spoke with is trying to be more cognizant of employees' time, and many are interrogating the necessity and length of their meetings. 

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia 

At CHOP, early morning meetings are typical. Patient demands and clinical schedules require some to be scheduled as early as 7 a.m., according to Calvin Allen, the organization's executive vice president and chief human resources officer. 

But the health system is growing more intentional in its meeting practices. Leaders are questioning  the purpose each meeting serves, and who, exactly, needs to attend; for example, they try to avoid calling multiple people from the same department to the same meeting. Organizers are asked to include an agenda for each meeting they call, and attendees are welcome to proactively question the session's necessity: "Just because it's on the schedule, doesn't mean it has to happen," Mr. Allen said. 

To prevent back-to-back calls, the system is whittling down meeting blocks from one hour to 45 minutes whenever possible. This lets attendees take a restroom or snack break between sessions, Mr. Allen said. And for jobs that allow it, many team members try to block meeting-free time on Fridays to get work done. They might also attempt to limit meetings on an employee's first day back from vacation to allow for a smoother transition.

Mercy (St. Louis) 

Mercy recently established meeting-free weekday mornings from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. across its four-state footprint. Catherine Codispoti, the system's senior vice president and chief people officer, told Becker's the change is not just about reducing the number of meetings; it also encourages workers to create more meaningful connections with one another. Without morning meetings, operational leaders have time to round in facilities and have face-to-face, one-on-one conversations. 

Ms. Codispoti noted that while the industry never sleeps, it is important to be respectful of employees' time. 

"Healthcare is an interesting space because we have co-workers who are delivering babies at 3 a.m. and others who are watching over cancer patients late into the night," she said. "We provide care 24/7 and many of our Mercy co-workers are available at all hours of the day. So, while we can’t predict when care will be needed, we do know that time is a gift."

OSF HealthCare (Peoria, Ill.)

There is not a uniform meeting practice that works for every department at OSF HealthCare, according to Shelley Parn, the system's chief human resources officer. Different segments of the workforce have to carve out different times to meet, and for physicians, those meetings sometimes occur during off-hours. 

But enterprise-wide, the system has taken a strong approach to well-being over the past year and a half, Ms. Parn said. Leadership has nudged divisions to consider balance and efficiency in their meeting practices: from 45 minute blocks that allow for breaks between calls, to set agendas with pre-reading material so attendees come prepared. 

Many divisions have chosen to implement "focus time," which employees can add to their own work calendars. Meetings can not be scheduled during these blocks, allowing for deeper workflows; some leaders have allotted partial or full Fridays to focus time. And although virtual meetings have become the "way of the world," that does not mean employees are on-call at all times. Managers are expected to respect business hours, Ms. Parn said. 

UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.)

According to Dallis Howard-Crow, UCHealth's chief human resources officer, an 8 a.m. meeting would be considered late in the healthcare industry. Many of the system's providers prefer 6:30 a.m. meetings so they can spend the rest of the day with patients. 

It's challenging to put a moratorium on calls given the unpredictability of the industry, but the health system is constantly assessing the value add of scheduled meetings. Like CHOP and OSF HealthCare, UCHealth has reduced many meetings to 45 minutes (or half an hour, in some cases). Meeting organizers are also encouraged to start and end on time, and are "extremely good at this," Ms. Howard-Crow said. 

Though employees might still be called to an early meeting, they have flexibility in other areas, according to Ms. Howard-Crow. Most clinical roles allow for self-scheduling.

WVU Medicine (Morgantown, W.V.)

Leeann Kaminsky, senior vice president and CHRO for WVU Medicine, noted that remote work habits post-pandemic have made it easier to meet with people at varying times. That means that sometimes, meetings are held as early as 6 a.m.

However, some teams are attempting to limit meetings on Friday afternoons. Ms. Kaminsky has noticed less Friday meetings in general, she said. 

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.