If the phrase “this could have been an email” has ever resonated with you, this new survey might validate your aversion to meetings. Not only do employees feel they spend more time in meetings than they should, but it turns out that unnecessary meetings come at a huge cost to the company – a whopping $101 million annually.
Steven Rogelberg, professor of organizational science, psychology and management at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, surveyed 632 employees from 20 industries for his study. The participants looked at their weekly calendars and concluded that they spend about 18 hours per week attending meetings. They back out of 14% of meeting they are invited to, but wish they could decline 31%. While this certainly must take a toll on employees’ state of mind, it’s also emptying company coffers. Attending unnecessary meeting wastes close to $25,000 per employee in a year, which can come up to $101 million for a company that has over 5,000 employees.
“Meetings do control us, and bad meetings have an enormous cost,” Bloomberg quoted Rogelberg. “You get a meeting invite and say, ‘I don’t need to be there,’ yet you say yes — why?”
Rogelberg has been studying meetings at the workplace for two decades now, and has gathered extensive data on the subject. He says that many fear breaking workplace norms by declining meetings. They do not want to offend their superiors or colleagues by seeming disengaged. Furthermore, managers do not educate staff on how and when to decline meetings. This could partially be because they like the sense of control that comes with leading meetings. The survey also found that women have a harder time saying no to attending meetings. They are apprehensive about asking colleagues to catch them up at a later time.
To improve meetings, Rogelberg suggests that organisers should outline agendas as questions, not topics. “If you can’t think of any questions, you shouldn’t have had the meeting,” Bloomberg quoted him. According to the survey, employees tend to multitask during 70% of nonessential meetings. A solution for this could be to invite employees for only one part of the meeting. Doing so could prevent people from tuning out.