wavebreakmedia/shutterstockIf you’ve ever been in a long work meeting—thinking of everything you could be doing while your over-eager colleague babbles on—you already know it can be a big a waste of time. But lengthy meetings are still held often and considered productive, when in fact the opposite is true. (Here’s how to look smart in a meeting if you’re dragged into one.) Here’s what you can tell your bosses today to get them rethinking that seemingly endless weekly meeting:
Meetings waste money
An analysis of one large company found that a weekly executive meeting ate up 300,000 hours a year. Still, a manager could be persuaded that those 300,000 hours are well spent, if it weren’t for one powerful factor: the cost in terms of salary per person. If managers won’t honor your time, they may be more compelled to honor their dime.
Think about that for a second. When you calculate the pay of everyone involved by the hour, a single meeting can easily add up to thousands of company dollars, especially if the attendees are highly paid executives. For example, if the average U.S. worker makes $24.57 an hour, and 300,000 hours are eaten by meetings every year, that’s $7,371,000 wasted. Keep in mind that lawyers and other higher paid positions make upwards of $150 an hour, so the number can be much higher. That’s $7 million that could be put toward the actual work at hand, whether it’s trading stock, waiting tables, or sampling microbrews—for work, of course. If we are to agree that time is a company’s most precious commodity, and one that is tied directly to cost, we should avoid wasting it however possible.
Meetings lower productivity
There are other compelling reasons to rethink regular meetings. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said “meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything,” and he’s not wrong: A collaborative study by Microsoft, America Online, and Salary.com found that the average worker only actually worked three days per week, largely due to time wasted in unnecessary meetings. When you’re not stuck in those meetings, make sure to take a look at these tips for boosting productivity each day.
Not all meetings are counter-productive, obviously, and the human element of face-to-face interaction is without a doubt important (along with quality of of life, of course). So what’s the solution?
Meetings could be streamlined
Instead of eliminating meetings, aim to make them more efficient. Pre-meeting planning can go a long way, as can adhering to tighter time-frames with only the necessary associates present. We should try our best to dispel the notion that long meetings should be routine, choosing strategic and efficient get-togethers instead. Thoughtful planning and clear agendas will move things along quickly and be less wasteful in the long run.
Meetings benefit from prep
Technology is helpful, here. If organizers share their agendas in advance, associates can come prepared. If materials such as documents or reports will be needed for the decision-making, create a shared folder or other space where participants can add and view them. This kind of meeting prep ensures time is spent discussing ideas and actions, not reviewing information that could have been digested on everyone’s own time. These six time management tips are how successful people get ahead.
And if it takes calculating money wasted to shift this culture, so be it. For those in need of hard statistics, Harvard Business Review created a handy calculator to estimate a meeting’s cost using the time of the meeting and the number/average salary of attendants.
Whether you love or hate work meetings, you’re being paid to work, not sit idly as your co-worker vents aimlessly to a drowsy crowd. Keeping meetings concise and cost-effective is good for individuals, company culture, and the bottom line. With a mix of psychological and practical changes, any group can hold fewer, shorter, more productive meetings. It all starts with the agreement that wasting time and money is helpful to exactly no one.
In the meantime, use these nearly effortless tips to be more productive in your first hour of work.