The Hidden Cost of Meetings

Meetings can be great. Let me start there. Especially meetings that take place in person. They offer a way for teams to connect on a personal level while holding the potential to discuss important issues and progress as a company. Having said that, meetings are typically the bane of the workplace.

They are often irrelevant to most participants or, if relevant, are easily reduced to a debate over differing philosophies effectively avoiding the topic at hand. A study from actually revealed that 47% of employees considered meetings to be the number one time-waster in the office. So, while these gatherings may seem like nothing more than an inconvenience before everyone moves on with their work, the negative effects actually extend far beyond a few yawns and rolling eyes.

Meetings are expensive.

  • There are ~11 million formal business meetings conducted in the US every day, adding up to $37 billion in employee time. Because these meetings involve paid employees, we must consider the participants time as an expense to the company. When viewed through this lens, it is difficult to decidedly continue to waste money on unnecessary and inefficient meetings. Make use of this convenient meeting calculator and determine if the cost of having the marketing team present while you discuss an hour's worth of topics inconsequential to their workload "for sake of convenience" is actually worth it. (note: the cost of the meeting is actually higher if you were to include the missed sales calls and other potential revenue-earning work that employees would otherwise be spending their time on)



Meetings crush productivity.

  • Not only are meetings time-wasters during the event, they can also drive down employee motivation post-meeting. According to a survey from OfficeTeam in 2009 entitled "Let's Not Meet", executives felt that in addition to feeling that 28% of meetings were a waste of time, 55% felt that employees would be more productive if meetings were banned just one day a week.



Meetings lower morale.

  • The amount and length of meetings have a direct effect on employee motivation. As disclosed in a study from researchers Alexandra Luong and Steven G. Rogelberg, it was found that as the number of meetings increased so did employee fatigue and their perceived workload. It hypothesized that this was likely due to the constant interruptions and daily hassles that meetings carry with them.

Now, before you begin dramatically striking through your datebook at random - it is important to consider the purpose of your meetings and if the goals can be achieved in other ways. Some logistical topics can easily be cut from meeting objectives and handled in outside communication, while other subjects, like brainstorming sessions, may require an appointed meeting time.

"...consider the purpose of your meetings and if the goals can be achieved in other ways."

In summation, it is far too easy to blame meetings for our fatigue and lack of productivity, when in reality it is our abuse of them. We should be working towards decreasing our reliance on them as our only source of collaboration and information exchange, because if we can improve our communication outside of meetings, we can reduce our need for them.