Sep 14, 2018

Why Unproductive Meetings are Hurting Your Team

How much time does your team spend in meetings? Do you often leave a meeting and wonder, “What was that about?” Do some managers at your firm hold meetings to grandstand, and draw attention to themselves, without a clear agenda or making progress?

Meetings are a drain on busy executives’ time, and on all those who are compelled to participate. Did you also know that unproductive meetings affect the work/life balance of employees?

Consider the research:

The Harvard Business Review reported that at a financial and regulatory consultancy they studied, three months after managers began to rethink the firm’s approach to meetings, a survey showed:

  • Employees perceived a 42% increase in team collaboration;
  • A 32% increase in a feeling of safety to speak up;
  • A 28% increase in team performance;
  • A 62%-92% rise in satisfaction with work/life balance.


Meetings prevent employees from completing their work

Why do meetings affect productivity so dramatically? Too many meetings are considered wasteful and annoying. HBR noted this research after surveying 182 senior managers in a range of industries. Meetings, it was said by:

  • 65%- keep them from completing their work;
  • 71% - are unproductive and inefficient;
  • 64% - come at the expense of deep thinking;
  • 62% - miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.

In an article in SHRM, Dana Wilkie noted that research has found that wasted time in meetings costs companies in many ways: the direct costs of salaries and benefits associated with participants’ time, the time lost that could be used for more productive activities, employee stress, and fatigue, and job dissatisfaction and less organizational commitment.


Wilkie proposed in his article on SHRM to schedule meeting-free periods during the week so employees can have uninterrupted blocks of time for deep thought and innovation.

He also encourages companies to quantify the cost of these gatherings: ask employees to document the number of meetings they attend, the time spent during the week, and couple this information with salary data. When managers realize the actual cost of meetings, they often cut back on them.


Focus on Improving Work/Life Balance

Research has shown that work/life balance is essential to people’s productivity at work. That is why you need to pay attention to how often meetings drain your employees’ energy and stamina.

People who have a good work/life balance work 21 percent harder than those who don’t, according to a survey from the Corporate Executive Board, which represents 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies.

The survey showed that people who feel this work/life balance:

  • Are more committed and engaged
  • Go beyond the call of duty

Critical to this feeling of well-being and achieving a work/life balance is to give employees the time and space to exercise during the day.

NST noted that a recent study reported in the International Journal of Workplace Health found that besides a good night’s sleep, exercise is another productivity tool at our disposal. People who exercise during the day are 23 percent more productive at work.

The Silicon Valley firms that are building state-of-the-art employee campuses recognize the importance of physical vitality in the productivity of their staff. That is why so many of these firms, such as Google and Genentech, have gyms and exercise facilities on their campuses.

Research in Australia has shown that a lack of work/life balance is the number one reason why women ages 30-40 visit their general practitioner, and is the number two reason for men. Unproductive work environments stress them out.


Work/Life Balance a Predictor of Happiness

In case you wondered how important work/life balance is to the people in your company, consider this research:

  • The 2017 World Happiness Reported stated that work/life balance is now one of the strongest predictors of happiness.
  • However, more than half of Americans are dissatisfied with their work due to a lack of work/life balance.
  • Workers feel overworked and underappreciated, with little control over their lives.

Are your employees bound to rigid 9 to 5 schedules? Does the prevalence of digital media mean that they have to be “on call” 24/7 to deal with office emergencies?

If you are concerned about improving work/life balance at your company, consider these options:

  • Reduce the time involved in meetings and their frequency.
  • Allow employees unstructured time to complete their work and do deep thinking.
  • Develop flexible work options for employees: give some the opportunity to work remotely, or set their hours to accommodate family obligations.
  • Check in with employees regularly to see if these improvements are affecting their state of mind, productivity, and happiness.

If you are a part of senior management at a company, you want to do what you can to support your employees, to encourage their creativity, and to assure their wellbeing at your business.


Follow these tips to ensure your workers reach their peak productivity levels:

  • Be engaged with your workforce.
  • Be committed to hearing about their problems and reducing their stresses.
  • Encourage creativity and innovation by demonstrating that your firm is one that is flexible, comfortable, and puts employees’ needs first.
  • Support your workers’ time to invest in their personal lives.
  • Be generous with holidays and vacation time.
  • Set boundaries.

The ability to be available 24/7 through electronic devices means that often management and employees do not set boundaries to ensure the integrity of their work life and their personal time.

Once you have removed the roadblock of unproductive meetings, you will free up your employees to enjoy other benefits of a positive work/life balance. Listen to their ideas. Support them. Set boundaries, and respect them. 


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