Are meetings a waste of time?

P erhaps we should have a meeting to discuss? I’m only joking!
Meetings create a paradox – they prevent one from working while simultaneously generating more work!

According to a 2019 Doodle report, almost two-thirds of professionals lose time every week through unnecessary or poorly organised meetings. In economic terms the cumulative effect is rather startling: $58bn lost per year for the UK and almost $400bn for the USA!

There are serious consequences to well-being and productivity, including: working longer hours (to catch-up), increased stress, feeling overwhelmed, a poorer diet (e.g. guilty snacking), disturbed sleep, and lower morale.

A meeting checklist will help bring focus.

Meeting checklist

– Is a meeting really necessary or are there other options?
– What is the purpose?
– What are the ground rules?
– Is there a clear agenda?
– Who needs to attend?
– How will it be kept as short as possible?
– Have you considered the well-being of attendees? (such as timezones, caring responsibilities, impact on mental health, having breaks)

“Another morning wasted!”

I once had a boss who called a company meeting every Monday morning. Around 30 people crammed into the single meeting room with most standing. The whole morning would pass by, the clock ticking towards lunch, as the boss jumped from topic to topic, earnestly waving his arms. It was quite the show.

“What was all that about!?”, “Another morning wasted!”, “I’m going to call in sick next week” – were some of the exasperated responses I heard. Given the detrimental impact on my teams, I took action.

It had to be delicately handled, but I was successful in getting through to the boss, whose intention was to “motivate the staff” with his vision of products and markets. It hadn’t occurred to him that he was having the opposite effect, or that he was dumping information on an unprepared audience.

The next meeting was 30 minutes long, much to everyone’s surprise – especially those who had brought in their lunch at 9am!

It’s not the X-Factor

Have you been in meetings where dominant voices ‘hog the mic’ and you feel like your role is to be an audience member?

Everyone that attends a meeting should have a chance to speak and make a contribution. After all, that’s why they have been invited. This does require a strong chairperson to ensure fairness.

The meeting is to move the organisation forwards, and that benefits everybody.

Keep it short

As meetings vary in purpose, my best advice is to keep them as short as possible. If it’s a going to be long, then build in breaks every 40-45 minutes.

Keep hydrated and ‘switch off’ for a few minutes during the breaks so you can return more engaged.

Before you organise a meeting, consider if it’s the best use of time, and factor in people’s well-being.

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