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Should That Meeting Still be an Email?

By Paige Kassalen

How many times have you walked out of a meeting and thought “yep, that information could have been shared through email?” This question always crossed my mind, especially when running from conference room to conference room trying to find a few seconds in between to grab a coffee.

It is common to limit the number of meetings scheduled so people have more time to focus on the tasks which were set out for the day, and this made perfect sense to me… before everything moved towards remote work.

I’m not saying that we should go back to having meetings where someone reads out a bulleted list of updates, but after working in two jobs that were mostly remote, I also see some benefits of holding meetings instead of just sending an email.

Here are three questions I ask myself when deciding if I should schedule a meeting or send an email:

When was the last time you had a face-to-face discussion with the person you are about to email?

While working in the finance industry, I would send hundreds of emails a day to different subject matter experts (SMEs). After a while, certain SMEs became my go-to resources when I needed help.

The problem was that I never met these people, virtually or in person, and I started feeling like the relationship was more transactional than collaborative. I loved solving problems collaboratively with a team in a conference room, but with remote work, it started to feel like we were all on our own islands inputting value when needed.


To fix this, I started setting up quick 15-minute meetings with the SMEs for my projects after every 4-5 emails exchanged to talk through a problem. This helped enhance the collaborative nature of my work and build relationships while working remotely.

How many meetings does the person you are about to email have during a week?

There were days at a previous remote job where I would have 12-14 meetings a day. I would be excited to have a half an hour free on my calendar to check my email or make some lunch, but I realized that that was not the schedule everyone on my team had.

I worked closely with a data scientist who said they only had a meeting every few days. Sounds great, right? They had a ton of time to focus on their work, but unfortunately, there wasn’t much face-to-face interaction happening.  The person actually felt pretty disconnected from the team.

This person was new to my team, and did not know many people because of the scarcity of meetings. This made it harder to know where to turn when they were stuck on a problem. Also, spending an entire day looking at a computer with no social interaction made it pretty hard to feel like a part of an organization and enjoy the culture it had to offer.

Once I learned that this person was missing out on day-to-day social interactions, I made sure to set up a bi-weekly “coffee chat” to just catch up and spend time getting to know each other as colleagues.

What are the risks if the person does not read the whole email?

There are sometimes instances where a meeting could have been an email, but the subject you need to cover is very complex or requires a lot of time reviewing a document for decision-making to occur. In these instances, it might be worth setting up some time to review the question or document together.


The other day I was typing an email to get alignment on the next phase of a project and the wordcount was spiraling upwards of 500. I quickly realized that, to get the desired outcome, I should set up time to review the materials in a meeting.

This allowed participants to have time to review the materials together and then arrive upon a decision. It also saved me time from having to track down feedback from these individuals separately.

This is a classic example of “it could be done through email, but should it?” Sometimes it is worth taking 30 minutes to work as a team and produce something in real time, especially when the decision will affect an entire team or organization.

I hope that this topic sparks a wide range of thoughts. The status quo used to be to limit the number of meetings when possible. Remote work has changed that thinking somewhat. There is no-one-size-fits-all solution, but in a world that is operating more remotely and across many time zones, it’s time to consider how having more “meetings that could have been an email” could enhance the company culture, employee collaboration, and operational efficiency.

Paige Kassalen

Paige Kassalen loves to put her creativity to use by solving problems in emerging technical fields, and has been an IEEE member since 2012. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 2015, Kassalen began her career with Covestro LLC. in 2015, and soon became the only American engineer working with Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered airplane to circumnavigate the globe. This role landed Kassalen a spot on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list along with feature articles in Glamour, Fast Company and the Huffington Post. After Solar Impulse, Kassalen has helped Covestro and JPMorgan Chase develop and implement strategies to embrace a range of emerging technology trends from autonomous vehicles to machine learning. In 2020, Kassalen received a Master of Information Systems Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University and now uses her problem-solving skills at an artificial intelligence startup, CrowdAI, where she leads the implementation of computer vision solutions for existing commercial customers.

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