How Meetings are Stealing Valuable Time & Tips on Making Them More Productive

Meetings are here to stay, whether we want to agree with the term or not, each year we’re spending more and more of our working day attending meetings. What’s even worse is how unproductive these meetings tend to be.

On average, around 24 billion hours are wasted each year due to unproductive meetings, this includes planning, conducting, attending, and debriefing. Employees are wasting valuable time at work, sitting in on discussions that could’ve been an email.

In a 2017 report by Harvard Business Review, it was found that from 182 senior managers surveyed, more than 70% of them said that meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Additionally, the majority felt that meetings keep them from completing work (65%), require deep thinking (64%), and are underutilised to help promote team culture and communication (62%).

Regardless of the medium, whether it’s an online conference call, an in-office session or even facilitating an executive retreat; meetings are costing companies valuable time and money.

For some executives and managers, it’s a pipeline dream to completely rid the company of humdrum gatherings that resolve nothing or provide no real progress for employees.

It’s possible to some extent to make meetings more engaging, and interactive and provide valuable information to employees relating to their work, projects, client details, and company goals. Keeping meetings interesting is often more about the presentation, rather than the actual information. Against this backdrop, employees also want to feel as if the information they are receiving is of value, and that once they return to work, they’re able to put it into practice.

Instead of wasting valuable hours this year, it’s time to take a look at how meetings can be more productive for everyone at the table.

Determine whether a meeting is necessary

Well before a meeting is even scheduled, and still in the planning process, it’s best to determine whether a meeting will even be necessary at all. Depending on the information that needs to be shared, meetings can often be avoided by sending emails to employees or keeping them updated with weekly newsletters and briefs.

Additionally, team leaders and office managers can oversee the task of determining whether a meeting would be suitable for the weekly agenda. This will give them an estimate of whether teams have enough time in their capacity to attend gatherings, or rather postpone them until more members are available to attend.

Have time limits

If you do end up having a meeting, for whatever reason it may be, it’s important to set strict time limits. Not only can meetings be extremely tiresome and dull, but they are often lengthy and take away valuable hours from the working day.

Having micro meetings will mean that less time is spent discussing unimportant topics, and more being used to resolve problems, come up with new ideas, or brainstorm. Effectively making use of shorter meetings helps employees to stay on top of their toes, and ensures that the working day can be more productive.

Plan ahead of time

Instead of having employees attend meetings on a whim, and without notice, it’s best to schedule and plan meetings well in advance. This will help ensure that employees are well-prepared with answers and any other questions they may have.

Planning ahead of time allows employees also more time to plan and schedule their working days. Additionally, it ensures that all employees can attend and that everyone is well-informed about the date and time.

Avoid status updates

Gathering the entire office only to give status updates is a waste of valuable time, not only for the company but for employees as well. It’s important to be more tactical about the types of meetings that are being held, not only for the sense of productivity but out of general respect for employees.

Meetings should be a time when critical information is shared with those involved, and solutions can be brought to the table. Instead of these stodgy gatherings, it’s important to keep meetings for important matters.

Train managers and team leaders

Hosting a meeting can be similar to investing in stocks or setting up an investment portfolio. At first, when you know nothing, you’re bound to have several hits and misses, and if you’re not actively looking for ways to improve, you’ll end up losing out on bigger opportunities.

And the same can count for meetings that are presented by managers and team leaders who are not efficient public speakers or communicators. Start by providing more training to managers, this way they can effectively liaise with teams, without the need for an in-person gathering. Better yet, when leaders can properly communicate with employees, they often feel motivated, valued, and appreciated in the workplace.

Allow conversations to flow

It’s often common to have meetings divert from the original topic of conversation, especially if there are a lot of points to cover. Those in charge, usually the meeting host should have a clear list of things to cover, within a given time frame without it feeling too rushed.

Additionally, make sure that once a topic has been covered, all employees understand what has been said to move swiftly to the next item on the agenda. An easy way to keep employees more actively engaged, and to ensure the conversation is flowing, is to make use of mediums such as presentations, photos, video, and even brainstorming sessions during the meeting.

Allow employees to opt out of meetings

A final consideration would be to give people the choice of whether or not they want to attend the meeting. It would make sense to have all employees present during the meeting, but often it’s not possible, as not all employees will have the same workload, and not all of them are necessarily related to the information that will be discussed.

Again, meetings are a lot like investing or portfolio management. If an investment, such as investing in electric vehicles, does your portfolio good, then it’s best to hold onto it for the time being. Once the market starts to shift, you do however have the choice to get rid of it or park your cash in more desirable investment options.

Just as you have the option with your investments, make sure that employees have the same. If you notice employees are no longer engaged or interested in meetings, it’s by now that you should have an alternative, or implement some new methods that will help spark interest among the masses.

Final thoughts

Keeping meetings interesting can be a challenge for some employers and team managers. Unfortunately, meetings are here to stay, for now at least, and while some companies have been doing away with them, others are implementing innovative methods to help keep employees attracted, but also to ensure that time spent in these gatherings promotes company objectives, and team building and boosts productivity.

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