Tired of attending useless meetings? Turns out, your boss is probably sick of them, too.
Executives spend an average of 25 hours a week in meetings, yet nearly half of those Zoom calls and project updates could disappear without any negative impact, according to a survey of more than 10,000 desk workers by Future Forum, a research consortium backed by Salesforce Inc.-owned Slack Technologies. The top reason why business leaders go to unproductive meetings is that they thought it would be a good use of time, but ultimately wasn’t. They also attend because they’re afraid to miss something important, and to show their own manager they’re working, the survey found. For those lower down the corporate ladder, the most common reason for showing up is obvious: They don’t have a choice.
The findings come as many organizations try to assess which meetings really matter, and which ones could be jettisoned in an increasingly hybrid workplace where staffers aren’t typically all in the same location. Shopify Inc., the Canadian e-commerce site, said it’s on track to eliminate 320,000 hours of meetings this year by ending all recurring meetings with more than two people, forbidding meetings on Wednesday, and limiting big gatherings, along with encouraging staff to decline some invites.
Reluctantly going to noncritical meetings wastes about $100 million a year at big organizations, according to a separate survey, which also found that workers only decline 14% of invites even though they’d prefer to back out of 31% of them. The share of virtual meetings that are one-on-one increased from 17% in 2020 to 42% last year, a study of 48 million meetings from collaboration analytics firm Vyopta found, a sign that companies are trying to rein in participants at least, if not overall meetings. And workplace scheduling apps like Calendly report that some of its customers are getting smarter about scheduling more meetings that actually matter.
Non-executives spend an average of 10.6 hours a week in meetings, the Future Forum survey found, and said that 43% of them could be done away with. Common tactics to reducing meeting overload include trimming the invite list, sending agendas in advance, and making sure the actual meeting tackles a set of thorny questions, not just a rundown of topics.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to eliminating unnecessary meetings,” said Brian Elliott, a Slack executive who oversees the Future Forum research. “So get comfortable with experimenting and iterating.”