Is your team having too many meetings?

Do you ever come to the end of a workday and feel stressed because instead of getting any productive work done, you have spent nearly the whole day in back-to-back meetings?

Ben Laker and his team recently conducted some research across 76 companies into the impact of reducing the number of meetings which teams have, and they just published their findings in HBR.

And some of the benefits are mindblowing.

First, a new of the findings about the negative impacts of too many meetings:

  • The number of meetings which teams have every week has increased over the past few years
  • 70% of all meetings prevent people being productive
  • 92% of people consider their meetings as costly and unproductive.

One interesting fact is that newly promoted managers book 29% more meetings than more experienced managers. This may be because they want to help their team as much as possible, they are not yet comfortable knowing how their team members are getting their work done, or that they feel like these meetings are required to replace face to face interactions and collaboration which would normally happen naturally in the physical workplace.

Even though in reality it may be preventing all of these.

Ben and his team then worked with these companies to implement strategies to reduce the number of meetings they held, including using collaboration and messaging systems to provide written updates asynchronously, and which could be read and updated faster by everyone than having to all join a meeting to provide the same updates.

Here is what they found when the number of days with meetings was reduced by 20% (one day without meetings per week), 40% (2 days without) all the way up to 100% (no meetings at all per week):

According to Ben:

Across the 76 companies we surveyed, we found that employee productivity was 71% higher when meetings were reduced by 40%. This is largely because employees felt more empowered and autonomous. Rather than a schedule being the boss, they owned their to-do lists and held themselves accountable, which consequently increased their satisfaction by 52%.

Reducing meetings by 2 to 3 days a week appears to hit the sweet spot for improved metrics across the board.

This is also likely going to be much easier to implement than trying to convince colleagues who are used to their current way of working that the status quo will radically change immediately, and therefore more likely to get their buy in.

Ben also mentioned an interesting insight about using technology more effectively to still allow communication to happen effectively:

Daily huddles are the most frequently held meetings, and often, they are the most difficult to give up. As a new manager, you may feel that it’s important for your team to be aware of one another’s work in order to reach your goals as a group. These meetings may seem like the best time to do this.

We have another suggestion: Set up a Slack or Teams channel specifically for this purpose. Every weekday, schedule a message to go out at 9:00 am: “@here What’s on your plate today”?

Ask your team members to respond within the hour, explaining what they’re working on, any important project updates, setbacks, etc. Managers (and your team members) can then scan the responses and follow up privately on updates that may need more context.

Our research found that 83% of employees preferred using these chat touch points over traditional one-to-one meetings because it saved them time. If your team members have a question, they can drop you a message instead of having to find a 30-minute block on your calendar.

So if you are a manager, especially a new manager, perhaps set up an experiment to have fewer, shorter meetings. This will give your team the feeling that they have the autonomy to make progress with their work, and may actually improve productivity, satisfaction, collaboration and reduce stress levels.

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.