How many hours a week do you spend in meetings? Five? Ten? Twenty? Surprisingly, managers cite spending between 13 and 20 hours a week in meetings. Meetings interrupt work, reduce employee-manager interaction, and are often not useful to workflow. When scheduling your next meeting or contemplating how to reduce the burden of meetings on your managers, consider these issues.
Prior to computers, meetings were a de facto part of the workday for collaboration and interaction. In today's workplace, there are more effective modes of communication. A policy change requires only a posting on the company intranet, and not an all-staff meeting. Unfortunately, not all workplaces have embraced this change in communication and continue to schedule meetings instead. Meetings need a clear collaborative purpose to be effective. They need a specific purpose that justifies having managers step away from other job duties to attend.
Most meetings have a "standing" invite list. Whether it's because employees are afraid of offending a department or the invited person is occasionally needed, the list of attendees for meetings can wreak havoc on productivity. When planning meetings, managers should carefully consider who they are inviting and why, keeping the guest list only to those people who will be participating in discussion and problem-solving. When you have multiple employees attending meetings but not saying a word, you should consider whether they need to be at the meeting at all.
The average meeting is scheduled to last an hour. This isn’t because these meetings need an hour but rather that hour fits nicely into a calendar and the length justifies people traveling to the meeting. Yet most meetings are book ended by off-topic discussion because there isn't enough relevant content to keep the meeting going the full hour. The mold of the one hour meeting needs to be challenged in the workplace. The person arranging the meeting should provide an outline of what is to be discussed and how long it will take in order to cut down time spent in meetings and their overall frequency.
In many workplaces, scheduling meetings is a free-for-all. There are standing committee meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, then department meetings on Fridays, upper management meetings on Mondays, and Quality Improvement meetings on Thursdays. Before you know it, the entire week is interrupted with meetings. Companies who want to limit the ineffectiveness of meetings need to start by looking at the timing of meetings. Many companies have implemented "No Meeting" days or times to allow managers uninterrupted time during the normal work week. While the amount of meetings may need to stay the same, simply moving meetings to a specific day or time can help managers stay abreast of their job duties.
Meetings aren't just an inevitable occurrence. They're part of a company culture. Some companies thrive on minimal meetings while others pack their schedules with them. Starting from the top down, upper management needs to limit meetings and create a clear guideline of when and where to hold meetings so that lower level managers can follow suit. Changing the company culture isn't easy but valuing productivity over meetings can increase company output and increase morale.
No matter the technology, there will always be meetings in the workplace in some form. Collaborative time is essential to solving problems and improving workflow and that can only be achieved by using meetings. Unfortunately, many meetings are only about information. For companies to reduce the time wasted in meetings, they need to look at these five issues and create a plan to increase meaningful meetings in their workplace.