Work meetings a disaster? 6 simple things you could do to avoid wasting your life.

Work meetings disaster

Work meetings were the bane of my life before I was made redundant. They usually involved people sitting around grey tables either trying to score points off each other, or doing other things while the point scorers argued. “Other things” ranged from checking email and social media, to ordering on Amazon, or playing games on their phones.

Work meeting involving lots of people. Perfect.
Post-its, flip charts and lots of people. Typical.

One of the later crazes was pretending to type meeting notes whilst actually sending messages over Skype to others in the room. You could tell who was messaging whom from coinciding smirks or giggles, and non-discreet nods, head shakes or eye rolls. There was also alternate typing, whereby as soon as one person paused, someone else looked up, winked and banged away on their keyboard. The message streams tended to be at the schoolboy or schoolgirl level, ranging from comments like “f***ing boring” through to “he doesn’t know what he’s doing” or “ooo, mr angry”.

Work meetings aren't for gossip
Work meetings are often used for gossip…

Work meetings and bad behaviours

Work meetings were a great way to pretend to be busy. You weren’t important if you had white space in your diary. It was also great to be back-to-back with meetings because when it came to dishing out actions, you could claim to be too busy to do them. Flashing up your diary helped elicit the required sympathy, and you could skip out and on to the next one before anyone looked too closely at the fact that “lunch” featured widely.

Entering the meeting room in the right way was also important. Too early and you looked like you had time on your hands, plus you had to engage in the pre-meeting small talk. Too late and it was too noticeable. Just slightly late was always best, bursting in to disturb the introductions with a brow so furrowed you could plant potatoes in it.

Next step for some was to disrupt. So whilst introductions were underway, important people would say how important they were, and that they could only stay for the first x minutes. ‘X’ as a rule of thumb was the meeting time less about fifteen minutes. Again that way they could avoid any actions, whilst shouting out a couple for others to pick up as they dashed for the door.

The worst offenders were terrorists…

Some of the worst people in the meetings were terrorists. I know it’s probably not politically correct to call them that, but these were people whose soul mission in life was to cause trouble. Nothing made them feel more important than disagreements. It’s not that disagreement is a bad thing, but the terrorists just said “no”. There was no offer of compromise or alternatives, just a damning indictment of the person or topic they’re denying.

Obviously it helped if they had special skills or knowledge that made it hard for people to challenge. They would throw out phrases like “your splodger only works if the clodger is engaged and connected via the UMPv1.0”, When asked to explain, they’d roll their eyes and say “best if we take this offline” before messaging some one in the room – “what a thicko!”. After a while people would give up asking, nod wisely and pretend they understood. They didn’t. Often because it was bullsh*t.

6 tips to improve your work meetings

But meetings could be so much better if a few things were adopted, such as:

  1. Choosing a decent meeting room – not just your standard small and stuffy one. I had my favourites. 211 was one as it was on the top floor and made people hot and sweaty getting there. I felt the exertion was good for the mind.
  2. No jargon. Anyone who denies a course of action because of something the rest of the room can’t understand should do a forfeit, like gargle a tune with water.
  3. Standing up. It would make meetings so much shorter and no one could be on IM. Anyone with hip issues could sit down.
  4. Shooting anyone who says they’re too busy to follow the actions through. Could get messy, but things would soon change.
  5. Going through previous actions first, if nothing else for the entertainment of listening to the 101 ways people say “I couldn’t be bothered…”
  6. Making the room cold. Open the blinds and keep the lights bright. You don’t want people dozing off or doing things they shouldn’t under cover of darkness.
Work meeting rooms need to be chosen carefully
My favourite meeting room. Choose your room with care to maximise the “wow” factor of your sessions.

Work meetings are what fill office workers’ days. For most people they are a form of therapy, as highlighted by the The Daily Mail. Some can be useful, but you could probably halve the number of participants and halve the number of meetings and still be productive.

I guess that’s maybe why I was made redundant.

My body used to fix itself…sadly it doesn’t any more. A story of midlife arthritis.

Last night I cried out in bed. No, it wasn’t what you’re thinking, but because of midlife arthritis. It was loud enough to stop my wife snoring, which was some consolation. But as I lay there trying to get back to sleep, I couldn’t help feeling a stab of regret that now in middle age the injuries, aches and pains stayed with me. Gone was the default “give it a couple of days” recovery process. Now it is more of a “get it checked out” process. My body used to fix itself, but sadly it doesn’t any more.

I’ve always been active. Football, squash, rugby, golf… in fact any sport was my thing. I was never great, but I was a trier. Of course that was a recipe for injuries, and I’ve had a few. Broken arm, hand, collar bone, nose. Dislocated finger (twice). Add to that torn cartilage (both knees), stitches in my head and chin (multiple times) and many others and you get the idea. I over tried.

However when I reached middle age I noticed things change. I couldn’t recover as fast and gradually the sports started to drop off. It all finally hit the buffers with a visit to a specialist about hip pain that was not going away. I was still playing squash as the time, along with other overweight middle aged blokes (who liked playing inside in the warm too). It was my thing. And unusually for me I was quite good.

Midlife arthritis. At my age? Really?

“You’ve got grade 4 arthritis,” said the consultant jovially. “Worst you can have. Both hips but the left is particularly bad hence the pain.”

I smiled back. “So how long before it’s better?”

“Ah. That’s the point. This doesn’t get better until you have a hip replacement.”

I was staggered. A hip replacement was for old people, not 40 somethings. It turned out I had been playing the “wrong” sports. With my funny shaped hip joints, the twisting and turning had worn away pretty much everything. Apparently I was unlucky. Midlife arthritis is uncommon but not unheard of. A different sport, or less sport, and there would be no issue.

In actual fact Andy Murray had the same problem, so I guess I was at least on a level with other sporting pantheons. Albeit he is younger, fitter and has a wealth of healthcare support alongside him.

“Does that mean I won’t be able to play squash any more?” I asked nervously.

Then came the killer blow. “Well, not really. I mean, you have to look at yourself. You’re not a young man any more.”

So there it was. Old. No recovery without some serious medical intervention and even then if I had a replacement hip now, I’d need another later on (assuming I lived into my seventies).

For me this was a hammer blow on many levels. Something I’d once said was more fun than sex was now denied to me because of my age (a bit like sex, but that’s another story).

Operation and recovery. Of sorts.

I sulked for a few weeks. I tried all the treatments – a steroid injection, pain killers including CBD, but to no avail. My body which had used to fix itself now couldn’t even be fixed.

I ended up having a hip arthroscopy where they tried to reshape my hip joint to remove the spur that was causing the pain. Aside from some time off work, sympathy and the chance to watch a box set or two it didn’t really help.

Eventually I roused myself to consider alternatives to keep me sane. I invested in some lycra and started cycling. I went swimming. I even became a gym bunny. Well, if you can call a middle aged bloke in saggy shorts and t-shirt a gym bunny. It all helped, after all exercise is good for the mind and soul.

Exercises you can do with midlife arthritis
Be proud of being middle-aged in lycra

However it has taken me a long time to come to terms with the finality. No more squash, football, or rugby. They’re lost to me now unless I try for the hip replacement. Midlife, for all the self help guides and encouragement, is the beginning of a decline. It hasn’t helped being made redundant.

Keeping yourself sane is key, so alternatives must be found. The positive is that no one cares what you look like anymore, so you can invest in the lycra and reveal all, or sweat like a pig in dodgy t-shirts. Failing that just grow a belly in the pub.