According to a plethora of research, meetings can kill employee productivity and drive a wooden stake through staff morale. The main problem, it seems, is that meetings suck up way too much time. Employees ranked meetings as the top workplace time waster in a survey last year by Salary.com. That jibes with a 2014 study by Atlassian showing the average employee spends 31 hours – nearly a full work week – in 62 meetings per month.
Even if your coworkers are at a meeting, their minds might not be. In the Atlassian survey, 91 per cent of workers admitted to daydreaming during meetings, 73 per cent said they do other work and 39 per cent have actually taken a nap. The last figure is no shocker, since a 2010 study found one in five U.S. employees has fallen asleep during a meeting.
If you’ve ever found yourself trapped at a useless, interminable meeting (and really, who hasn’t?) then you’ve been ‘meetnapped.’ That’s how the cheeky wags at UrbanDictionary.com define the ordeal of being “forced to sit through a useless meeting that puts you to sleep with your eyes open.”
But the impact on the bottom line is no laughing matter. Atlassian estimates that U.S. businesses waste $37 billion a year in salary costs on pointless meetings. This past summer, Mattel Inc. issued a memo ordering staff to hold “no more than a TOTAL (that’s their capitalization, not mine) of three meetings to make any decision.”
Why? Seeking the culprit behind Mattel’s sagging sales, managers discovered endless meetings were killing creativity. For example, it took eight meetings just to redesign Barbie’s school uniform crest and nearly a year of weekly meetings to retool a website.
Clearly, meetings have gotten out of hand. Here are some tips – and technologies – to deal with meeting overload.
Be brief: Once your meeting hits the 30-minute mark, almost 75 per cent of people tune out to do other things like checking email, according to a 2012 study.
Finish on time: Make sure your meetings end on schedule. It forces people to use the time efficiently and keeps the agenda moving. Google Ventures even puts a huge timer in the room to keep things on track.
Keep it small: Google Inc. has limited its meetings to 10 people or less since 2011 in an effort to remain as nimble as a startup.
Time it right: Analysis of two million responses to 530,000 scheduled events suggested the worst time to set a meeting is before 10 a.m. – everyone is presumably still getting through their coffee, breakfast and email inbox. Meetings held Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. have the best attendance rate.
Consider banning some technologies: Devices can be distracting. Barack Obama barred smartphones from cabinet meetings and the leaders of France and Britain followed suit. They may have a point: former U.S. presidential candidate John McCain got caught playing poker on his phone during a 2013 senate hearing.
…but using others: Videoconferencing and webconferencing allow your staff to attend meetings from anywhere, letting them work flexibly while cutting travel and long distance costs. Unified communications and collaboration technology can make meetings more productive through real-time screen sharing, file sharing and instant messaging. Cloud-based versions can be even more scalable and cost effective.
If your team members get the hang of using these solutions to collaborate and share project updates regularly, who knows? You might just be able to eliminate some meetings entirely.