Meetings are ineffective 72% of the time - which is no surprise to anyone

meetings are ineffective 72% of the time - which is no surprise to anyone

Just as we thought, all of those pre-meeting meetings, and followup ones too aren’t as productive as people think (Credits: Getty Images)

What’s worse than an ineffective meeting? Four ineffective meetings.

No, it’s not a joke, it’s very much a reality for workers who often find themselves attending a pre-meeting meeting, the meeting itself, a post-meeting meeting, and a follow-up meeting. Meetings are contagious.

Even if you work somewhere with a strict meetings policy, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that meetings are deemed ineffective a whopping 72% of the time, according to a new survey.

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Tech collaboration tools provider Atlassian dropped this stat after surveying 5,000 knowledge workers across four continents, concluding that meetings are the number one barrier to productivity.

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Productivity pitfalls

If you’ve ever felt like your work day is just one long parade of meetings, you’re not alone.

A staggering 78% of survey respondents say they’re expected to attend so many meetings that it’s hard to get their actual work done.

It’s no wonder that 51% find themselves burning the midnight oil at least a few days a week due to meeting overload. And for those climbing the corporate ladder to director level and beyond, that number jumps further to 67%.

But it’s not just about time – it’s about energy too. A whopping 76% of workers agree they feel drained on days when they have a lot of meetings.

It seems the corporate world has inadvertently created a workforce of meeting zombies, shuffling from one conference room or Zoom to the next.

Unproductive practices

There are a number of reasons why meetings are ineffective.

Often a handful of voices dominate the discussion, leaving most attendees mute with little to no opportunity to contribute their thoughts.

And while attending meetings and observing is a key learning activity for junior employees, a lot of the time it can feel like wasted time for more experienced staffers.

Frequently, meetings lack an agenda or a desired outcome, leading to aimless discussions that quickly go off-piste, with extended chit-chat openers thrown in for good measure.

It’s not surprising to hear that the survey also showed that 54% of workers frequently leave meetings without a clear idea of next steps or who owns which task.

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What workers can do

You can take control of your professional and personal time, and get unruly meetings under control with a few simple actions.

Firstly, you can start to decline meetings. If you’re not sure why you were invited, ask the organiser why, and if appropriate, what they hope you can contribute. You might be able to send helpful information in advance that will save you attending in person.

Secondly, insist on an agenda. Though this can be hard to do as an individual, without seeming like a nark – to put it politely – and damaging relationships.

So, lead by example by including a bullet point agenda in all your invites, and also a desired outcome, then after every meeting, send a brief summary of decisions and action items after each meeting to ensure everyone’s on the same page.

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Then at your next one-to-one, talk to your manager about issuing a company-wide memo encouraging all employees to include an agenda and desired outcome in all meeting invites going forward.

Also, bring a few different ideas to the table, such as stand-up meetings, which tend to be shorter, and discuss the possibility of introducing a weekly no-meeting day trial, giving workers time to complete meeting-mandated tasks.

If you work hybrid or remotely, discuss and consider your company’s collaborative tools too. Sometimes the sharing of a document and an ensuing Slack thread, or an always-on Miro whiteboard, can eliminate the need for a meeting completely.

Keep the conversation focused on improved productivity, which is like catnip to managers. All of these suggestions show you are being proactive about meeting fatigue, rather than simply complaining – which is fun to do, but ultimately ineffective in itself.

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