If it seems like there are more work meetings each week than ever, it’s because, well...there are. A recent BlueJeans survey of 700 employees in the United States confirms that meetings are being called more frequently than ever before, with an increase of 67% over the past three years. Today’s pervasive meeting culture means that across an organization, workers at every level must split their time—and their attention—between their own pressing deadlines and multiple mandatory meetings. No wonder people feel stretched, and stressed, for time.
Frequent meetings wouldn't be so bad if they were always focused and productive. After all, meetings are an opportunity for teams to quickly and efficiently get on the same page, share updates, set goals and strategize about achieving them. Yet nearly three-quarters of workers say their company’s meeting culture ranks somewhere between “neutral” and “bad.” To top it off, they feel one-third of the meetings they’re required to attend are not valuable or even worthless. They also say they could skip nearly 40% and still be productive.
What’s going on here? First, as the digital workplace evolves, technology makes it easy for people to schedule and attend meetings from anywhere at any time. That’s potentially good news. Problem is, now that it’s so easy to call and host a meeting, the risk of creating “meeting fatigue” is also higher than ever. In this sense, today it’s imperative that managers and their colleagues understand how to make every meeting matter.
Fortunately, we have valuable input from employees themselves about how to create a meeting culture that’s no longer bad or neutral but is, in fact, productive, sensible, and, perhaps, pretty great.
- Think before you click. Before sending the invite-list, remember that who attends is at least as important as what’s being covered. Nearly 50% of participants say they suspect their colleagues are attending meetings because of FOMO (fear of missing out). But with no compelling reason to contribute, they sit in silence and wind up wasting their own precious time.
- Make it optional. Employees generally know if it’s critical for them to attend any given meeting. If someone on the RSVP list is a “nice to have” rather than a “must-have,” empower them to decide how best to budget their time.
- State your goals. It may seem obvious, but clearly identifying and communicating the objective of every meeting is vital for ensuring a productive discussion. Creating and sharing an agenda beforehand is also key—plus, all these efforts help with points 1 and 2 above.
- Leverage technology. It’s never been easier to conduct an interactive, engaging meeting by using automated tools for everything from whiteboard presentations and screen sharing to crowdsourcing discussion highlights and cascading action items and meeting notes.
- Remember post-meeting engagement. Follow up with attendees after the meeting ends. Technology makes it easy to get on-the-spot feedback about the meeting itself and, as a result, make subsequent meetings even better. Half of the surveyed workers say no one ever asks them if a meeting was effective, so simply requesting feedback can help build trust and even boost job satisfaction.
Also worth remembering? Almost all employees (92%) say using communication/collaboration tools really does make their job better. The lesson for managers and business leaders, then, is to call meetings judiciously and use meeting technology wisely. When they do, organizations are on track to set a gold-standard for productive, purposeful meetings.