More CFOs are ditching back-to-back video meetings to avoid employee burnout

Employee burnout is real and can be exacerbated by inefficient work processes. And as recruiting and retaining talent remains a major challenge for CFOs, some are working to curb team members’ stress levels by limiting daily video meetings.

This week, Gina Mastantuono, CFO of software company ServiceNow, shared a LinkedIn post with her thoughts on brainwave activity research that found back-to-back video meetings increase stress levels. “Those of us who work in the hybrid model feel it,” Mastantuono writes. “So I’ve changed it and set some new guidelines for our ServiceNow finance people.”

“Our Zoom meetings are no longer 30 or 60 minutes,” he writes. “Most of our meetings in finance now last 20 to 25 minutes, with a five-minute buffer for a mental break before the next meeting starts,” writes Mastantuono. “We’ve been working on it for the last few months and we’re seeing a dramatic difference.”

“We also instituted a Friday WIN (Now Important) time,” he explains. “Every Friday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM (local time), everyone in finance blocks out their calendars and avoids video meetings. Purpose is focused attention. It gives us a place to read, write, and hold everything else that’s important to get your work done in a healthy, uninterrupted way.” Mastantuono added, “Listening to your employees’ feedback is pure gold.”

Last time I spoke with Xihao Hu, CFO of TD Bank in the US, he shared with me best practices for data storytelling. This time, Hu shared his thoughts on making meetings less stressful. “I’ve read several articles and stories recently about companies encouraging companies to cancel all meetings or reduce their meetings during the day,” he said. “It definitely piqued my interest and influenced my thinking.” As a company, TD encourages employees to have 20- to 25-minute meetings versus 30-minute blocks of time, and “we practice well-being with screen breaks or walking meetings,” says Hu.

Regarding employee engagement, TD’s “Training Days,” which include a full day of workshops and panel discussions, “give employees the flexibility to dive into a variety of interesting topics tailored to career development or areas of interest,” Hu says. “We block calendars in advance to avoid conflicts on ‘Training Days,'” he says.

Hu also told me what he personally does to combat burnout. “As a leader, it’s important that I practice what I preach because everyone needs leadership support when finding work-life balance,” she explains. “I block out ‘me’ time on my calendar where I enjoy spending time with my parents or watching football. I also communicate openly, honestly and frequently with my entire team about how I spend my time. It starts at the top and creates a positive ripple effect that helps prevent fatigue.”

I asked Alka Tandan, CFO of tech company Gainsight, about her thoughts on video meetings. “We know all too well that our remote workplace can easily lead to virtual meeting fatigue,” Tandan told me. Gainsight uses a “quick meetings” setting in Google Calendar that “limits meetings to 25 or 50 minutes and helps avoid back-to-back calls whenever possible.” Tandan encourages department heads to designate certain days of the week that block internal departmental meetings. “It gives us time and energy to focus on getting the job done and forces us to question whether the meeting is really necessary to achieve our goals,” he explains. “We still meet overseas with other departments, vendors or customers.”

“Gainsight has strict rules about weekend emails,” he says. “We ask that employees try to avoid work emails on Saturdays so that everyone can have a well-deserved rest.” In addition to regular unlimited PTO, weekends, and holidays, employees get an extra day off each month called “Recharge Days.”

CFOs must be experts at balancing chalk time and meeting management to another line item.

Try to unplug and have a good weekend.

Sheryl Estrada

Great work

The 2022 US Bank CFO Insights Report measures the priorities of finance leaders as they navigate uncertain times. The best practices related to inflation risks are identifying cost reduction opportunities (57%), assessing credit risk of key customers (35%), evaluating working capital practices (32%) and pricing (32%). However, the CFOs surveyed ranked talent shortages as the top risk, rather than high inflation, according to the report. Ways finance leaders plan to cut costs include investing in technology, discontinuing low-margin/low-growth business lines and outsourcing certain business functions. The findings are based on a survey of 750 senior financial leaders working in US businesses across a variety of sectors.

Courtesy of US Bank

Go deeper

Here are some weekend reads:

He did business with a crypto security executive, Sam Bankman-Fried, and sent a team to the Bahamas. He was shocked by the lack of interest in security controls and FTX’s grandiose ideas: “Maybe We’ll Buy Goldman Sachs” by Shawn Tully

3 Reasons Giant Tech Layoffs Don’t Mean Recession Coming, Goldman’s Prarthana Prakash Says

Introducing the Chief Remote Officer: Corporate America’s Response to the Hybrid Workforce Here to Stay by Trey Williams

Early birds for the win. By L’Oreal Thompson Payton Exercising before noon is key to your health


Here’s a list of some notable acts this week:

Donald R. Kimble, chief financial officer and chief administrative officer at KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY), will retire on May 1, 2023. He will be replaced by Clark HI Khayat, currently chief strategy officer. Khayat joined KeyCorp in 2012, leading corporate strategy and later serving as group head of commercial payments. He built Key’s enterprise payments and fintech partnership strategies. Khayat led the company’s strategy to build scale through a series of investments in capabilities such as digital and analytics, including Laurel Road, Cain Brothers and Pacific Crest, as well as successful niche acquisitions.

Nancy Walsh Katapult Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: KPLT), an omni-channel point-of-sale payment platform, has been named CFO effective Dec. 12. Former CFO Karissa Cupito is moving into a senior advisor role to support the transition in the first quarter of 2023. Walsh was most recently EVP and CFO of LL Flooring Holdings, Inc., a retailer of hardwood floors and wood flooring accessories. Prior to joining LL Flooring Holdings, Walsh was EVP and CFO of Pier 1 Imports, Inc. He also held senior finance and risk management positions at The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., Tapestry, Inc., Viacom and Timberland.

John Klinger Promoted to EVP and CFO of The TJX Companies, Inc. (NYSE: TJX ), a discount apparel and home fashion retailer, effective January 29, 2023. Klinger joined TJX in 2000 as manager of business analysis at Marmaxx. . He held various finance positions at HomeGoods and Marmaxx, rising to VP, divisional CFO for AJWright. Klinger later served as vice president of corporate finance and CFO of TJX Europe. He later became EVP and corporate controller.

Andrew Murphy From November 15, Duos Technologies Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: DUOT) has been promoted to CFO at its subsidiary Duos Technologies, Inc. Since 2020, Murphy has been working as Vice President of Finance at Duos. Prior to joining Duos, Murphy held a succession of senior finance roles at APR Energy. Prior to working with APR, Murphy worked in corporate and public accounting with a focus on tax and business services.

Donald C. Templin was named EVP and CFO at Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA ), a health, wealth and investment company. Templin most recently served as EVP and CFO at Marathon Petroleum Corp. He also served as CFO of MPLX LP, a diversified, large-cap master limited partnership formed by Marathon Petroleum. Prior to joining Marathon Petroleum in 2011, he held a number of positions at PwC, including as a partner at the firm.

Jason Conley Effective February 1, 2023, he was promoted to CFO at Roper Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: ROP), a manufacturer of products designed for global niche markets. Conley will replace Rob Crisci as EVP and CFO. Conley, 47, is currently vice president and chief accounting officer at Roper. He joined the company in 2006 as head of financial planning and analysis and investor relations. Conley also served as SVP of finance and HR at Roper’s Managed Health Care Associates business.

I heard

“Our annual planning process extends into the new year, which means that there will be more role cuts as leaders continue to make adjustments. These decisions will be shared with affected employees and organizations in early 2023.”

-Amazon CEO Andy Jassy wrote in a letter to employees Thursday that the company will continue to lay off workers next year, CNBC reports.