Pointless meetings will cost companies billions in 2019

The Doodle State of Meetings Report 2019, a brand new in-depth look at the current state of meetings in the workplace, has been published, based on research conducted with 6,528 professionals in the UK, Germany and the USA. The report is available to read in full here: meeting-report.com.

It found that:

  • Professionals spend two hours a week in pointless meetings, which will add up to over $541bn worth of resource in 2019
  • The average professional spends three hours a week in meetings – making two thirds of all meetings unnecessary or a waste of time
  • More than a third (37%) of professionals consider unnecessary meetings to be the biggest cost to their organisation
  • 76% of professionals prefer face-to-face meetings to calls or video chats
  • Mornings are overwhelmingly the best time to hold a meeting – with 70% of professionals preferring meetings between 8am and 12pm

The report is a comprehensive look at the time taken up by cancelled or unnecessary meetings, inefficient ways of working and preferred methods of meeting and features expert comment from organisational academics and psychologists.

Key findings include:

Poorly organised meetings seriously affect the bottom line

Poorly organised meetings cost companies a huge amount in time and money every year. Professionals in the UK, Germany and USA spend two hours every week in pointless meetings, adding up to 13 days over the course of a year. The average professional has three meetings each week, with an average duration of one hour per meeting. Proportionally, professionals feel that two thirds of the meetings they attend are unnecessary.

The cost of poorly organised meetings is most keenly felt in Switzerland, where 46% of professionals see this as the biggest cost to their organisation, compared to 40% in the UK, 38% in Germany and 34% in the USA. Doodle also calculated the cumulative yearly cost, in time and hours, to companies in the countries surveyed*:

Delving deeper into the specific personal impact, over a quarter (26%) stated that poorly organised meetings impacted their client relationships, while others feel they create confusion in the workplace (43%), and impact their ability to actually do their work (44%).

Supporting this is the finding that a third (33%) of professionals find themselves unable to contribute to most of the meetings they attend – suggesting over-invitation is a major waste of time at work.

Paul Axtell, author of Meetings Matter comments on the implications of poorly organised meetings:

“The impacts of poor meetings also affect people’s own behaviour. When they feel a meeting isn’t working for them, they end up bringing other work and multi-tasking rather than owning the conversation.

Employees are also the ones who pay the less-obvious costs associated with poor meetings by not being fully-up-to speed and organised, which can see them take work home, therefore not relaxing and regenerating. In the short term, individuals can push through these issues – but long term they pay a high price through the additional stress.

Face-to-face is best

Despite technology giving us the ability to join meetings anywhere in the world, face-to-face meetings are still clearly our preferred meeting method.

76% of professionals surveyed named this as their favoured format, with other methods scoring low:

  • Conference calls – 7%
  • Video calls – 5%
  • Instant-messaging – 4%

When asked about the benefits of face-to-face meetings, respondents were clear about definite benefits of meeting in person:

  • 95% of professionals also feel that meeting in person was an effective way of building relationships at work
  • Less than half (47%) said the same about instant messaging
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Steven Rogelberg, chancellor’s professor and professor of management at the University of North Carolina and author of ‘The Surprising Science of Meetings’ comments on this finding:

“Research on meetings is just so critical. There is perhaps no other work activity that is just so common, and yet so complained about.

“Although technology has made it easier and easier to meet remotely, and that is a good thing, there is something particularly powerful associated with individuals coming together to meet face-to-face. Communication tends to be more rich and nuanced given that verbal and non-verbal cues readily abound.

“These additional layers not only can promote deeper understandings, but can help actually foster relationships as communication intent is easier to see and empathise with, and misunderstandings are a bit easier to avoid. Unlike a virtual meeting where it is easier to hide in the background and multi-task, face to face meetings tend to have more accountability and engagement.”

What makes a good – or bad – meeting?

Respondents were also quizzed about what makes a good, or bad meeting, with the results showing that clear organisation is essential for a good meeting, while distracting or inefficient behaviour derails meetings:

What makes for a good meeting?

  • Setting clear objectives – 72%
  • Setting a clear agenda – 67%
  • Not having too many people in the room – 35%

What makes a bad meeting?

  • People taking phone calls or texting during meetings – 55%
  • Participants interrupting each other – 50%
  • People not listening to the contributions of others – 49%
  • People arriving late or leaving early – 49%
  • People talking about nothing for long periods of time – 46%

Dr. Sankalp Chaturvedi, associate professor of organisational behaviour and leadership at Imperial College London comments on what makes a good meeting:

“The secret of a successful and time-efficient meeting is preparation. The agenda mustn’t be too long. Otherwise there’s a risk of spending too much time on the first items and later items are rushed. The agenda should be circulated well in advance, including the goals of what is expected from the meeting, and specific detail on the subjects and time allocation.”

Gabriele Ottino, CEO of Doodle, commented:

“Everyone knows the pains of boring, pointless meetings. They happen every day, but the cumulative effect is frankly shocking! If you aren’t looking to improve the efficiency of meetings at your organisation, you’re wasting an enormous amount of money and time.

“Many organisations will suffer due to a casual approach to scheduling and running meetings, and in particular the 25% of professionals who have an average of five or more meetings per week.

We commissioned this report because we wanted to have a better understanding of what makes a bad meeting, and how it affects people on a daily basis. What’s positive is that within the huge financial implications lie simple issues that can easily be fixed.

“Things like setting a clear agenda, only inviting relevant people and proper planning can be easily implemented, and if we stick to these principals there’s a clear opportunity to make a huge savings, cut wasted time and reduce irritation to employees – benefiting everyone.”

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