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Are Office Meetings A Waste of Time?

Dont' Bore Your Team

Are Office Meetings A Waste of Time?
By Joe Issid
Monster Contributing Writer

During my career as a Project/IT Manager, I would estimate that more than 70% of my average working day was spent in a formal meeting or on a virtualised version thereof. Given a 60-hour work week, that amounts to more than 40 hours spent sitting in meetings each and every week. And this is a pattern that I repeated for countless years, believing that collaborative meetings were the key to both personal and team success. In hindsight, I look back somewhat critically on those years and feel that my time was not being properly used and question the value that my role provided my employers. Sure, meetings certainly do have value in the workplace but there is a tipping point where meetings can become detrimental to a business’ bottom line.

All meetings are expensive
Whether you are having a small team meeting or a company-wide gathering, there is a calculable cost associated to it. Economists use a term called “opportunity cost” to measure the cost of an activity in terms of the value of the next best alternative that was forgone (i.e. not chosen). In business, we all routinely make decisions based on opportunity cost analysis (whether it is conscious or not). With regards to meetings, however, this principle is very often ignored. I am sure that we all have attended countless meetings throughout the course of our careers where our attendance was entirely unnecessary. Furthermore, sitting idle in a meeting means that other work is not being performed. Regardless of your status in an organisation, you need to constantly be aware of the value of attending a meeting and the value of the task that is being sacrificed. Now multiply that value by the amount of people attending said meeting. The costs can be astronomical.
Re-think recurring meetings
Many managers like to schedule recurring touch points with their staff on a weekly or monthly basis. Often, the justification for these meetings is loosely defined and is often an opportunity to touch base and to provide loose updates on your work. If you work in an office, I am sure you have attended more of these meetings that you can count. Over the years, I have learned to question the necessity for any meeting that does not have an explicit agenda. If a meeting is scheduled for the sake of having a meeting, you should begin to question why you need to be present.
Don’t mistake meetings for team-building exercises
Motivation and team cohesion are critical to the success of all businesses. As such, all managers should invest a good amount of time and resources into developing good team chemistry. Scheduling weekly team meetings to shoot the breeze is not a good replacement for activity-rich, meaningful team-building activities. Grouping everyone into a room once a week to discuss ad hoc matters is not a good use of time and does not help create good team dynamics.
Ad hoc meetings all the way
As a small business owner, being efficient is critical to my success. With limited resources, I need to try and reduce the noise that surrounds my staff. As such, the only meetings that appear on my calendar are those that are created only when a specific need arises and to address a very specific item (or collection of items). With these explicit rules in place, weeks can go by without a single meeting being scheduled. Meetings do have value – but only when scheduled for specific reasons.
Do not make decisions
Meetings are very bad places to try and make decisions. With so many potentially differing opinions, too much time can be spent trying to arrive at a simple conclusion. Ideally, decisions are made by the primary decision-makers offline and meetings can then be scheduled to support and implement these decisions. Additionally, meetings should not be scheduled for purely informational purposes. If you have made an impacting decision, send an email. Do not oblige people to attend a meeting that can easily be replaced by a few written words.
Ultimately, all enterprises strive to produce harmonious and efficient workplaces. If you are an office worker and find that you are subjected to a great deal of meetings that provide you with little value, bring it up to your manager. Producing quality work should always prevail over activities that provide less value to an organisation. Hopefully, we can all look forward to spending less time staring at a clock in a cold boardroom.