Fewer Meetings Lead to Higher Productivity


Workplace meetings, while sometimes a necessary part of the business world, are notorious for their ability to instantly drain employees of their ability to work productively. Our recently published survey on the Value of Transparency in the Workplace revealed that the overwhelming majority of employees were open to employers having visibility into daily productivity. Additional internal findings showed that holding fewer meetings could actually help employees work more productively. 

In internal data collected by Prodoscore in March and April of 2020, document access fell by 26% and the use of calendaring apps dropped by over 22% versus the same period last year, while overall productivity increased close to 50% lending credence to the idea that meetings, especially unnecessary ones, can drastically cut into employee productivity.

Why meetings have such a negative effect on productivity

When handled carefully, meetings can be an extremely useful way to communicate critical information to many employees at once, and can be extremely effective for planning, strategizing, and brainstorming. 

Unfortunately, many workplaces rely heavily on holding meetings that only serve to benefit a few workers - the majority of those sitting through regular meetings get nothing out of them, instead losing valuable time and being forced to play catchup. Meetings are often long, especially when they involve a large number of participants who are expected to engage.

Many meetings can be quickly addressed with a quick phone call or email, making them a frustrating experience for employees who feel like time is wasted during meetings. In a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, 65% of senior managers reported that meetings keep them from completing work, and 71% responded that meetings were largely unproductive and inefficient. That same study showed that 64% of senior managers believed that meetings came at the expense of deep thinking and that they actually miss opportunities for bringing teams together in a meaningful way.

Not only are they time-consuming, but they can zap an employee’s ability to work creatively and efficiently, having been shown to consistently interrupt “deep work”, forcing workers to catch up by coming into work early, staying late, or working during scheduled off time. In addition to interrupting meaningful work, meetings have been shown to negatively affect workplace satisfaction, with bad meetings actually working to undermine employee communication and collaboration.

The argument for holding fewer meetings

The negative effects of bad meetings doesn’t mean that you should cut them out entirely - they’re still extremely effective tools when used effectively. The key is to know when to hold a meeting, and when to substitute one with a quick call or email, and to be more critical about who really needs to be involved in a meeting and who can be left to continue working. 

For those who may need to know about certain topics covered in meetings, you can instantly send them a quick summary or link them to the minutes rather than involve them directly. Fewer meetings will interrupt workers less, and keep key personnel in the loop at all times. Not only will productivity increase with fewer meetings, but workplace satisfaction will too.

Interrupting productive employees and forcing them to sit through meetings that don’t concern them is one of the worst things you can do productivity, so it’s critical that managers and employers understand the importance of limiting the number of participants in a meeting. By rethinking the way you approach meetings, you’ll find that they’re far more likely to be effective for those who need to be involved, and that those who aren’t plagued by constant meetings are happier and more productive than ever before.

The Harvard Business Review study followed up with consultancies that took a new approach to holding meetings, finding that there was a 42% increase in collaboration, 32% increase in employees feeling that they could speak up and express themselves, and a 28% increase in team meetings- work-life balance satisfaction even rose to a massive 92%.

Tips for more effective meetings

In order to make meetings more effective for employees, you’re going to have to take a drastically different approach to them. That could mean not only limiting the amount of personnel in a meeting, but also limiting the amount of each participant’s speaking time to expedite meetings. 

That means having to cut off over-talkers and enforcing a maximum time limit for each speaker - anything that can’t be conveyed succinctly can be relayed in an email. Once meetings have wrapped up, clear steps on how to proceed should be given to all those involved - this can be done by using project management solutions to help employees stay on top of next steps. Without clear next steps, employees are more likely to spend additional time on clarification emails, calls, and in worst case scenarios, even more meetings.

To ensure that meetings are consistently effective going forward, it might be wise to establish best practices for company meetings using rules similar to those established in Robert’s Rules of Order. This means ensuring that all company meetings meet the following requirements:

  • A quorum is present, made up entirely of workers essential to the meeting
  • A chairperson is established to guide and conduct the meeting
  • Somebody is responsible for taking accurate minutes
  • Rules on who can attend and who can participate are established and followed
  • Members are notified of the meeting’s date, time and purpose ahead of time to allow them to plan for time lost

These are the minimum requirements of an effective meeting - from there, you’ll need to establish best practices specific to your workplace to ensure that meetings are at all times productive and efficient. 

By reshaping the way your business conducts meetings, you’re guaranteeing that less time will be wasted, that employees will be able to work more effectively without worries that they’ll be torn away from deep work, and that the overall satisfaction with your company’s work-life balance will be far higher. Whether your team is working from the office or reporting from home, holding fewer meetings can be extremely beneficial to your entire workforce.

To find out more about the surprising takeaways from Prodoscore’s Value of Transparency in the Workplace, be sure to check out Part I and Part II of the survey.

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