How to stop wasting time in meetings

As of July 19, many of us will be returning to the workplace as work from home restrictions are lifted.

On the plus side, it means we can spend a little less time in the spare bedroom/office. On the down side, it’ll mean a return to the daily commute, office politics and an unnecessary amount of meetings.

As a preemptive measure, here’s how to stop wasting time in meetings.

Have you ever wondered yourself how much time you waste in meetings each week? A new study has found that the average worker now spends 213 hours a year in meetings – that’s 26 working days.

If this sounds like an area of concern, maybe it’s time to consider whether those daily catch-up meetings are really worth the effort, or if those weekly stakeholder meetings are actually relevant enough for all stakeholders.

And if you’re dragging people in from all over the country for face-to-face meetings, it could be time to work out how much time and money you could save by getting everyone to dial into a conference call instead.

The UK meetings crisis

The UK workforce is in the grip of a meetings crisis – a new study from Moo, a worldwide design company, has found that more than 20 million people attend at least one meeting each day, while nearly one million people spend more than half their working week meeting with colleagues or clients.

It also found that the average amount of time spent in meetings is 4.1 hours a week, with the average worker spending a whopping 213 hours a year — or 26 working days — stuck in them.

This, in itself might not be a problem, but the study of more than 1,000 workers also found that at least a third of that time is entirely wasted – an average of 20 minutes of every 60-minute meeting is wasted, often before the discussions have even started, and 90% of respondents said most of the time wasted is waiting for everyone to turn up.

Other time-wasting issues include setting up technology, choosing where to sit, and even just finding a meeting room causes all sorts of issues. This is where a conference call can help out, as people can dial in from wherever they are, so there’s no need to try and find a meeting room.

And it seems like it’s a problem that’s on the rise as a similar study carried out last year found that Britons spent 23 working days a year in meetings. This increase could be attributed to more and more businesses having to meet and plan for the impact of Brexit.

Brendan Stephens, global creative director of Moo, said: “I find one of the easiest ways to stay productive during the working day is to cut down on the number of meetings that I agree to attend,” he said. “I only go to those that are absolutely necessary. This gives me valuable time back and keeps me focused.”

He added: “It’s important that meeting organisers allow plenty of time to set up, and check all technology and connections are working as they should be. Minimising these issues at the start helps ensure they run more smoothly.”

Here’s how you can stop wasting time in meetings:

How to stop wasting time

How to keep conference calls focussed

If you’ve managed to trade in some meetings for conference calls, it’s imperative you make the most of the time you’ve allotted – one of the problems with conference calling is that people can switch off if they’re not directly involved in the conversation and become completely disengaged and miss out on important information as they check emails, social media or even go browsing online.

So here are three steps to make sure you make the most of your conference calls…

1. Only invite the required number of participants

This may sound obvious – why would you invite more people than necessary? – but it’s easy to get carried away and invite every single stakeholder to every meeting.

And including too many people may lead to unnecessary distractions, especially when you have to wait for people to join the call.

Not only that, the more people you include, the more options and viewpoints there will be to consider, and this may take up considerable time – so make sure only include those who genuinely must be at the meeting.

2. Distribute a meeting agenda in advance

Letting people go off at a tangent signals the death knell for a conference call, so to stop them from being hijacked you need to have a clear, actionable to-do list in place before the call.

This can be a simple summary of key points will keep everyone on the same page and ensure participants are prepared for the call-in-advance.

3. Use a reliable conference call provider

Having a bad connection that keeps dropping, or an unclear audio arrangement is a sure-fire way to have people switch off from your conference calls. So make sure you use a reliable and cost-effective (no-one wants to pay over the odds) conference call provider to make sure everyone stays online for the entire call.

The financial impact of bad meetings

A recent TED talk – those short Technology, Entertainment and Design workshops – revealed the average employee attends a mind-numbing 62 meetings a month, while executives spend almost half their working hours sat in meetings.

And these unproductive meetings are costing businesses an estimated $37 billion in lost productivity every year.

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And while these stats are based upon data from the US, it’s safe to say similar stats form the UK would measure up to them.

If you’re unsure about exactly how much time you’re wasting in meetings, try out this handy meetings calculator that syncs with your Google calendar to show you exactly how meetings are eating into your working week.

How much time are you wasting in meetings? And how have you made sure you’re making the most of them? Let us know below…