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Why Meetings Kill Efficiency (and What to Do About It)

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It takes a lot of time for meetings and adds to the growing work day.  Have you ever sat down in a meeting and said to yourself, “What a waste of time, I should do my job.” Read on to find out why meetings kill efficiency, and what you can do about it.

You are not alone. Meetings take up an ever-increasing amount of time from staff and managers, which has led to the expanding work day. Excessive meetings are not a good way to keep employees happy.

While meetings can be a beneficial strategy and mechanism for communicating job progress, interacting with others can have a huge negative impact on morale and employee engagement through excessive and poorly managed meetings. This has been proven by study after study. 

Analysis of Why Meetings Kill Efficiency

More than 70% of the 182 senior managers surveyed agreed in a Harvard Business Review study that such meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Respondents said meetings discourage them from finishing their own job (65%), come at the cost of deep thought (64%), and miss chances (62%) to get the team closer together. 

In their analysis, the firm Sharp Europe recorded that 63% of meetings did not have a scheduled agenda. A Microsoft study found that ambiguous expectations, lack of team contact and inadequate meetings are among the top time wasters that employees around the world say make them feel unproductive on average for as much as a third of their workweek.

Excessive meetings, beyond decreased effectiveness, can also pose a health threat. According to Duncan Selbie, CEO of Public Health England, sitting in meetings slows down the metabolism and decreases the ability of the body to control its sugar and therefore blood pressure. Obesity, diabetes , cancer and even death may result from these effects.

How much time do meetings actually take? Another Harvard Business Review piece from 2014 revealed that three consultants studied an unidentified “big organization” employees’ Outlook schedules and found that a dizzying 300,000 hours a year ate up one weekly executive meeting. This number does not only count participants’ meeting hours; it causes a ripple effect in the company. For the executives involved, who also had to meet with unit heads to prepare for it, producing another 20,000 hours of meetings; those unit heads had to prepare for those meetings with team meetings (63,000 hours), and those team meetings produced several preparatory meetings (210,000 hours). In the report, the aforementioned meetings took up 7,000 person-hours. And the authors write that “overall” doesn’t include the work time spent planning for individual meetings. All those wasted hours makes it clear why meetings kill efficiency.

Make The Most of Your Time in Meetings

To think about scrapping meetings entirely is probably impractical. However, reducing both the frequency and the amount of time spent on them dramatically could improve productivity and employee satisfaction. Here are nine efficiency experts’ tips that can help: 

1. Try a walking meeting — Rather than sitting down, consider having walking sessions. Walking sessions may improve the health of the participants and can also reduce the time required. 

2. Set strict limits on time — Limit the meeting time to an hour, or less, if you can. And finish the meeting on schedule, even if the agenda is not finalized. 

3. Build a meeting agenda and distribute it before time — Have a simple and concrete agenda that announces the intent of the meeting and the planned results, distributed in advance. Ensuring a small range of action and discussion items on the agenda.

4. Decide on clear, assigned items of action for after the conference — Ensure that decisions taken at the meeting are followed up specifically and actionably, including who is responsible and accountable.

Strive for Meeting Efficiency

5. Do not hold meetings for a “status update” — Do not use meetings for updating or disseminating information that other tools, such as email, can handle. 

6. Don’t start your meeting late — Always start the meeting on time and, after 15 minutes, do not encourage participants to take part. Do not use time for updating late arrivals, too. 

7. Put a limit on the size of the conference — Limit to no more than nine the number of persons participating in the conference. 

8. Offer it out to people — Enable unessential workers the right without penalty to refuse their attendance.

9. Keep the conversation moving — If you are the meeting’s facilitator/chair, monitor the debate by not allowing people to dominate the discussion or repeat what has already been said. Other methods of exchanging content in meetings may also be discussed, including alternatives to brainstorming, presentations and the use of media and technology.