Wall Street Journal found that professionals now spend more than half their standard workweek (21.5 hours) in meetings. This is an increase of 7.5 hours a week since the pandemic began. Are you and the staff spending hours of your day stuck in meetings? How does it impact your productivity? Let’s find out.
Meetings are an efficient vehicle for communication and provide leaders with an opportunity to gather ideas and feedback. They can be helpful for brainstorming, developing strategies, and implementing decisions. Within a business, meetings offer a semblance of routine and stability. They are opportunities for employee socialization, relationship building, and promoting work culture. They do provide real benefits.
The challenge is when organisations have endless or excessive meetings. Problems also arise when the meeting is run poorly or without regard to its impact on the group and solo work time. Those have costs and an impact on productivity.
Even before the pandemic, 71% of managers thought meetings were costly and often unproductive. Hundreds of executives across various industries have agreed they feel overwhelmed by their meetings whether formal or informal, traditional, or virtual. Research has further confirmed that the length and frequency of meetings have increased over the past 50 years to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours in them. Professionals today spend more than 85% of their time in meetings which can negatively affect their psychological, physical, and mental well-being. A Harvard study found that the levels of CO2 in a crowded meeting room can reduce higher-level cognitive function by 50%.
Waste of time
Every minute you spend in a wasteful meeting disrupts time set aside for solo work. Schedules packed with meetings interrupt ‘deep work’– the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. Sometimes employees are included in meetings just for the sake of it and they must show up because their attendance is expected.
When people don’t contribute to the discussion or are involved in the conversation, the team fails to reap the benefits of the meeting. The organisational challenge of a meeting is that it usually benefits only one person or cohort.
Many businesses struggle with meetings that are:
Regular team meetings without fixed agendas can create further chaos and impact productivity.
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Is there a solution?
Unfortunately, you still need meetings. They are a necessary outlet for social bonding and brainstorming. Given the time and money, companies spend on meetings, improving their effectiveness should be a focus. It will take a systemic approach to fix the problems associated with meetings.
Ask for feedback
How do your employees feel about meetings? Does it affect their time and productivity? Use surveys or interviews to gather data and feedback about employee engagement. This can be a part of your employee survey process.
Analyse the feedback
As a team, analyse and interpret the feedback. This must be an open and honest discussion of the survey. While having an expert and neutral facilitator can ensure a constructive and effective conclusion, it won’t have the input of the affected team members.
Use the feedback to start a dialogue with your staff. Let the managers or employees see how scheduling meetings is impacting others. What can be done better? Is there a meeting template to follow? Do you need to consider meeting-free days?
Rather than leaving it up to your employees, consider having some general standards and guidelines.
Meeting-free days- This reduces the number of meetings overall
Urgent agenda- Meeting only when an urgent agenda is on the table or there is a need for group input
Opt-out options- Making it acceptable for employees to opt-out of meetings on subjects that do not directly impact them or their role
Time limit- Set a time limit
Comprehensive agenda- Agenda to be sent out with every meeting including time estimates for each topic
No tech- No checking personal devices or phones during meetings
A study conducted across 76 companies, with more than 1000 employees each and operations in more than 50 countries that had introduced from one to five no-meeting days per week revealed some interesting statistics:
- Employee satisfaction increased by 52%
- Stress levels were reduced
- Productivity increased by 71%
- Autonomy increased
- Micro-management decreased
- Work-life balance satisfaction increased
If your team is scheduled to meet on an ongoing basis, work out ground rules and assign roles in the first session. Leaders and participants should have assigned roles, and you can have a timekeeper and note-taker for accuracy.
The timekeeper can also help drive the meeting back on track if people get distracted.
Change the pattern
You may not need a weekly meeting every week. Don’t be afraid to be flexible and change the pattern. Similarly, you can meet in a new location to stimulate creativity or break the monotony.
Once you have implemented changes, constantly monitor progress. This will provide you with an opportunity for learning and correction.
By altering something as basic as meetings, you can see far-reaching implications. It starts a conversation and forces companies to look inwards.
Successful businesses and leaders don’t think of meetings as a necessary evil. They look at them as strategic tools and seek ways to get the most from them. They use them to solve immediate problems and build a cohesive unit. It is also essential to note that these changes won’t happen overnight. Even by making a few tweaks to one weekly meeting, you can see significant benefits for the organisation and employee satisfaction.
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