People are attending more meetings than ever, driven primarily by the transitions to large scale remote working. This is at odds with the culture of many remote-first companies that strive to reduce meetings to the absolute minimum. After all, if your workforce is global, a culture of decision making and work coordination that only takes place at moments when time zones overlap is massively limiting.
Hybrid working is pushing companies who are not targetting a remote-first culture to see their teams less. Packed diaries and lots more meetings may seem like a demonstration of effort but it's not clearly correlated with productive output. Now more than ever, companies need to think about how much time people spend in internal meetings and scrutinise what, if anything, those meetings aim to accomplish.
Our meeting calculator is a quick way to estimate the internal cost of a meeting based on its length and who's attending. Assigning a monetary value to people’s time can help to highlight the potential cost of misusing it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I have so many unproductive meetings?
Many internal meetings are simply habits. The problem with habits is that they are nearly or completely involuntary behaviour. You don’t think twice about something if it has become a habit. Meetings that are associated with decisions on your priority initiatives are not habits, but almost every other meeting is! Ruthlessly reduce the meetings not aligned to your priority decisions.
Why do I feel so busy but struggle to get work done?
Busy and productive have become conflated. Being ‘back to back’ is like an anti badge of honour. Busyness makes us feel important. It stems from a culture of presenteeism where to be seen spending long hours at your desk was somehow a measure of your commitment and effort. The problem with being busy is that we often can’t account for what we are doing. When that happens we are simply expanding work to fill up available time. Prioritising our time actually gives us back time to spend more wisely. If we don’t say no to things that don’t make a difference, others won’t either.
How can I start to improve my meetings?
Separate the meetings you need to make key decisions for your priority initiatives from meetings that don’t have a clear agenda. Think twice before you schedule or accept the latter. If you have no clear purpose for scheduling the meeting then the people you invite have no reason to attend.
A meeting should not take place without an agenda, and it should definitely not take place between close colleagues to simply share information. There are other platforms for doing that. If the people involved don’t have a role or accountability for progressing actions based on decisions to be made, then their time is being misused. Take them off the invite.
How do I improve the quality of my meetings?
The quality of meetings can be dramatically improved by establishing and enforcing a few principles:
- Remove recurring meetings (with the exception of things like quarterly financial results or one to ones)
- Have an agenda with clear objectives and shareable results
- Make sure you have someone running the meeting, an effective Chairperson
- Limit the number of invitees and ensure they understand why they are there
- Advance preparation - circulate materials in advance whenever possible
- Start on time - latecomers without cause disrespect other people’s time
- Be fully present and pay attention - avoid sending emails or checking your phone
- End as early as possible - don’t just expand the discussion