The Furor Over 8 AM Meetings

As some firms return to 8 AM meetings, workers yawn, then gripe—including 29 million who viewed a TikTok video protesting the idea.

With the same furor that surrounded such topics as quiet quitting and “acting your wage,” workers are debating—in some cases openly protesting—the 8 AM meetings some firms are scheduling. A single clip on TikTok in which a Gen-Z worker said he’d be skipping an 8 AM meeting to make a workout class has nearly 30 million views over the last couple of weeks. A typical comment on the video: “Are you going to be paying me for 8 AM to 9 AM or at the very least let me leave at 4 PM.”

Experts say the early-morning-meeting debate is more than just social-media chatter: It’s another challenge to managers’ leadership that they likely didn’t think twice about before the pandemic. Whether to have that early meeting—much like whether to allow an employee to work remotely—is now seen as having a major impact on the type of culture a leader wants to have. “Are you solving for a productivity question or a culture question?” says David Vied, global sector leader of Korn Ferry’s Medical Devices and Diagnostics practice.

Early-morning or evening meetings, of course, are not unusual for bosses dealing with colleagues in multiple time zones. Indeed, having team conversations during off-hours is often a conciliatory gesture to colleagues in other countries that spares them from having to work very late or get up in the middle of the night. 

Pre-pandemic, having an early-morning meeting might have caused a few gripes, but it wasn’t something many employees would angrily react to or actively blow off. In the early 2000s, the company John Long worked for imposed a rule barring internally focused meetings from 9 AM to 5 PM. If colleagues needed to meet, they often would get together at 8 AM, says Long, now a Korn Ferry senior client partner and sector leader of its North America Retail practice. The rule wound up cutting the number of meetings, he says, and the remaining get-togethers were usually efficiently run. “For a customer-facing business, it probably made sense,” he says.

But the pandemic didn’t just disrupt the work routines of hundreds of millions of people—it also made many of them question their professional priorities. For some, it’s become a bridge too far to have to fight the traffic of an earlier commute or mentally focus themselves before a traditional work start time. “People might say ‘You’re adding to my day,’” or are being insensitive to parents or those with other responsibilities, says Andrés Tapia, Korn Ferry’s global strategist for diversity, equity, and inclusion. He calls the revival of 8 AM meetings “a terrible idea.”

For their part, firms and bosses, at companies both big and small, consistently say they are worried about worker productivity post-pandemic. Return-to-office mandates have helped, they say, but some managers report that people are consistently arriving late or leaving early. The hope is that the early-morning meetings will energize staffers.

Still, experts say that managers should explain the purpose of these early-morning meetings. Perhaps the 8 AM meeting time is a way to separate those who are willing to fit into the company culture from those who aren’t, Long says.  

It’s worth asking employees what their preferences are as well. That early time might indeed be the best time for team collaboration, says Maria Amato,  global leader of Korn Ferry’s Employee Experience and EVP solutions. “But it also might be a meeting that just as easily could be done an hour later, without creating worker angst,” she adds.


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