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Death by Meeting!

Mar 10, 2020

Is your company’s meeting culture negatively impacting the productivity and wellbeing of your people?

If I had a £1 for every time a client told me they don’t have enough time to keep on top of their workload I’d be sunning myself on a beach in the Caribbean right now! When we start to unpick their working day I often find that an enormous chunk of time is spent in back to back meetings.

These clients are desperately trying to attend all these meetings alongside juggling their rapidly increasing inbox, task list, projects, and demands from managers, customers, stakeholders, colleagues, and teams. And often work overspills into their evening meaning they are rarely fully present either at work or home and have little time to switch off and recharge.

Statistics compiled by Atlassian, the company responsible for productivity tools such as Jira and Trello that are used by thousands of teams worldwide, report the average employee attends 62 meetings per month and at least half are considered unproductive and a waste of time! According to their research:

  • 91% have daydreamed during meetings
  • 96% have missed meetings
  • 39% slept during a meeting
  • 45% felt overwhelmed by the number of meetings they attended
  • 73% did other work during meetings
  • 47% complained that meetings were the number 1 time-waster at the office

Let’s face it, no one loves meetings! Yet people still schedule them and accept invitations to sit through hours listening to others justifying why things haven’t been completed or talking about things that are just not relevant to them.

So why is this? Meetings are usually ingrained into an organisations work culture and are inherited from the pre-tech days where companies still embraced a culture of long and frequent meetings. Today, with the advancement of technology, it has never been easier or quicker to arrange a meeting – meaning more meetings, more often! The hardest part is finding a suitable time slot (in amongst all the other meetings) in which all participants can attend.

In an organisation driven by meetings, being ‘busy’ does not necessarily mean productive. It means that a large chunk of time is dedicated to meetings. Therefore, people are time-constrained, but not necessarily busy producing something of value. This can be soul-destroying, particularly for those people that are motivated by tangible results and making a difference.

I’m not suggesting that you banish all meetings to room 101. However, I would invite you to review your company’s meeting culture and speak to your people to determine whether meeting fatigue is impacting their ability to be their best in the workplace. 

And if you must have meetings, it might be useful to consider the following points:

Do I need to schedule a meeting?

  • Have you taken some time to think through this situation?
  • Do you need outside input to make progress?
  • Could an email, chat, phone call or an informal in-person chat resolve the issue?

If a meeting is required:

  • What the purpose of the meeting is
  • What the outcome you want to achieve is (a decision, idea generation)
  • Who needs to be there (remember less is more)
  • What is important to the attendees about this meeting (why should they attend)
  • How you will communicate this with them to motivate them to participate

Prepare in advance:

  • Set a clear agenda outlining the purpose, desired outcome, and discussion points.
  • Ensure the agenda is circulated to key stakeholders allowing appropriate time for them to do their research and prepare for the meeting.
  • Set a time limit for the meeting and stick to it – this includes managing scope creep effectively and any wafflers in the room.
  • Set clear actions and responsibilities with a timeframe and consider how you will hold people accountable.

In a culture of having to increasingly do more with less, where time is becoming a rare commodity, reviewing your organisations meeting culture could help free up some space in people’s diary and turn down the stress-o-meter dial a notch or three. It might also contribute to increasing the overall happiness and wellbeing of your people. Because let’s be honest, no one loves meetings and very few of us want to spend our evenings and weekends catching up on work!

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