A group of colleagues are having coffee and smiling during a casual meeting

When you start a job, you walk into a preexisting workplace culture. There are norms about how colleagues in this firm work together. These norms can be explicit: the HR handbook might spell out a dress code or vacation policy; a sign in the kitchenette might remind you to wash your coffee mug. More often, though, the norms are implicit and unwritten. For example, one company might use Slack for work only, while another has a dozen active social channels full of gifs and memes. 

Thought leaders and business managers have spent a lot of time reflecting on how to create a positive workplace culture (here’s one example from Forbes) – and for good reason! A healthy, vibrant workplace culture is a cornerstone of both productivity and retention. In this context, leaders often reflect on high-level things like company values, communication & leadership style, equity & inclusion, and fostering engagement. 

Of course, here at Kron’s Agenda, we’re most interested in time management, meetings, schedules, and calendars. Workplace culture deeply impacts all of these things. Each firm has a distinct constellation of norms that comprise its company calendar culture.

What is company calendar culture?

Let’s start with a seemingly simple example. If your job includes meetings, you are responsible for keeping track of when those meetings are so that you remember to show up. How you track those meetings is up to you…or is it? Your employer may have some parameters, or even specific expectations, about what you need to track, what tools you use to track it, and how you communicate (or don’t) the details of your daily work schedule. This is part of your company calendar culture.  

Broadly speaking, company calendar culture elements can be broken into two categories: personal time management (calendaring) and collaborative time management (scheduling & meetings). 

Personal time management: time tracking and calendars

A busy paper calendar full of meetings and commitments
A busy paper calendar full of meetings and commitments

How do you track the time you spend at work?

Maybe it’s just in your head. Perhaps you have a paper system (or a scattering of post it notes – we don’t judge). If you’re an office worker in the 21st century, odds are decent you at least have access to a company-sponsored digital calendar connected to your email, likely Google or Outlook Calendar. At some companies, it’s up to each person if they want to bother with the digital calendar. Other companies expect the work calendars to be used daily and kept up-to-date. In large decentralized firms, these company calendar norms may even vary from department to department or even boss to boss. 

What are you tracking?

Do you only keep track of time for meetings with others, or do you time block your individual tasks as well? If you’re an hourly employee or have billable hours, you are legally required to meticulously punch the clock on your start and stop times. And of course, there are all those pesky nonwork things like medical appointments or caregiving responsibilities that might happen to occur during working hours – are you tracking those? If so, are they tracked separately from your work calendar system, or lumped all together?

Who is the audience for all this time tracking?

Maybe it’s just yourself. But especially if your workplace expects you to use an electronic calendar, you may be expected to share that calendar. Are you sharing just a free/busy view, or full details? Sharing with your boss? Your direct reports? Whole teams? The whole company? Are you allowed to share your work calendar outside the company – say, with your spouse? 

Collaborative time management: scheduling meetings

A person takes notes during a virtual group meeting
A person takes notes during a virtual group meeting

While workplace culture shapes each employee’s calendar practices, there is generally still plenty of room for individual idiosyncrasies without causing disruption or confusion. A coherent culture becomes more critical when it comes to planning shared time.

WHAT is a meeting?

Are there standard types of meetings that this company has? Examples include weekly 1:1s between supervisors and their direct reports; monthly staff meetings; daily standup. 

WHO is involved in meetings?

For scheduled meetings, who calls them? Who decides the agenda, attendee list, duration, frequency? Does one person decide all these things, or is the responsibility dispersed? Are there some people who are tapped to represent their colleagues at cross-team meetings (and who decides)? How are meeting arrangers supposed to learn and account for the individual preferences of attendees, especially busy, high-power individuals like executives? And of course, who actually does the scheduling tetris of finding a time and managing the rescheduling? (Pro tip: if that’s YOU and you dislike scheduling tetris, we’ve got a cheat code for you: try Kronistic.)

WHEN are meetings?

What times of day are employees expected to be available for meetings? Are there time zone differences to account for? Does the company culture lean towards meetings in mornings vs afternoons? Are lunch meetings ok? What’s the default meeting duration? Are meetings generally flexible and constantly moved around, or relatively rigid, only moving if absolutely necessary? And when should THIS specific meeting be?? (Again, if you have to find a meeting time and that’s stressing you out, Kronistic can help.)

WHERE are meetings held?

Are meetings usually in person, virtual, either, or both? Are they expected to be in offices or conference rooms? Or maybe at a coffee shop? 

WHY call a meeting?

What warrants a meeting (rather than, say, an email) at this company? What sort of topics are addressed asynchronously (email, slack) vs spontaneous synchronicity (stop by a desk, chat in the kitchenette, pick up the phone) vs scheduled meeting (commitment with specific agenda, time, location, and attendee list)?

Company calendar culture matters

These may sound like trivial questions, but they have a serious impact on company calendar culture. Time is always a precious and scarce resource. In a business setting, time literally equals money. When there’s a meeting, the company is paying everyone who attends to be there – so it’s important that meetings don’t feel like a waste. If a company has a chronic problem with meetings being a waste of time, there’s probably some work to be done on the company calendar culture. 

Of course, many of the most powerful players in setting calendar culture lack formal authority. Often, it’s assistants and administrators who hold the strings to the time purse. Of course, these calendar keepers are beholden to the preferences of the busy company leaders they support. Understanding the relationships between higher-power meeting attendees and lower-power meeting arrangers is critical to shaping a positive, productive company culture calendar. 

Calendar culture is just one piece of the workplace culture puzzle. In a strong company, the calendar culture aligns with overall company values. Taking the time to step back and craft the calendar culture that works for your team and your company can make the time you spend at work more productive, more transparent, and more impactful.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: