Are Meetings Killing Productivity?

Meetings are an age-old tradition in business culture. In theory, they provide the framework for groups of people to communicate, share and collaborate as a group. 

In practice, however, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes meetings are set for the wrong reason or without the right approach. As a result, employees lose precious time, and can feel confused or frustrated. This raises the question:are meetings killing productivity? 

Let’s explore the ways that meetings impact productivity and how you can navigate them to achieve the best results.

Unclear Expectations

Without defined expectations, meetings run the risk of disorganization and distraction. For busy teams, unclear agendas cause everyone to get off track. 

Similarly, a meeting that lacks next steps leads to confusion and saps impact. By default, setting clear expectations has the opposite effect. Let’s explore two ways to do just that. 

Send out an agenda ahead of time

An agenda clearly shows all attendees what the focus of the meeting will be. It also gives insight into how much time is being allocated for each point of concern. This eliminates tangents by keeping everyone on a predetermined agenda. Clear expectations will make your meetings run smoothly.

Set a Clear Objective

We’ve all been a part of a meeting that led to another meeting. A clear objective ensures that you have direction throughout the conversation. Focusing on that specific topic is a great way to encourage everyone to come to a distinct conclusion by the end of the meeting. This can provide people with a tangible takeaway or actionable next step.

Time Consuming

The majority of industry leaders would probably agree that there’s no room for wasted time. Unfortunately, entire meetings can pass without any clear or beneficial result. At other times, meetings are used to summarize other meetings. In effect, those attending could have been doing something more productive with their time. 

To increase productivity, leaders would do well to remember that time is money. These techniques will help you save time or reduce meetings altogether.

Ask Yourself This Question

You might not even need to have a meeting in the first place. Before sending an invite, ask yourself, Could this be done via email? 

If the answer is yes, then make it into an email that your team can read at their leisure. This has the added benefit of documenting your points, which may have been overlooked in a 30-minute meeting. An email forces you to be concise and focus on pertinent information. Leave out the fluff and niceties woven into traditional meetings.

Appoint a Timekeeper

Encourage someone to play the role of timekeeper and rotate this responsibility. That way, there are other people accountable for moving the discussion along. It also makes those in attendance stay on track. Sometimes, this will mean forcing everyone to eliminate personal questions and one-offs, but the results in productivity pay off.

Eliminate Individual Questions

At every company, there’s going to be someone who asks questions that only pertain to them. Unless you’re in a 1-on-1 situation, it’s important to avoid this. Why? Because it often disengages all other members of the meeting.

That said, it’s still important to help those who have questions to get clarity. To do that, end the meeting a few minutes early. Have people stay behind to ask these types of questions during this time. If you’re tech savvy, consider using surveys as another way to receive and answer questions.

Interrupt Flow

Not all meetings are bad. There are times when brainstorming or reviewing a pitch deck as a team can be useful. On the flip side, nothing is worse than getting a last-minute invite to a meeting when you’re in the middle of an important task. Whether the meetings are in person or via Zoom, managers need to consider the cost of employees task-switching in order to join meetings. 

It’s reported that task switching leads to a 20 percent reduction in productivity. When people are in the “flow” state, it takes time to get into that state and to become refocused after an interruption. Task switching to attend a meeting hinders effectiveness within the meeting and can also cause projects to take longer than necessary. Let’s consider some ways to avoid productivity dips.

Schedule Meetings Far in Advance

Scheduling a meeting without advance notice can contribute to an overall loss of flow. To ensure that your attendees stay productive, give them advance notice whenever possible so they can plan accordingly. Doing this will help attendees to show up with a clear and focused mind.

One CEO found a creative way to solve the too-many-meetings dilemma. Mattan Griffel of One Month dedicates one day per week to meetings. Having larger chunks of time allows people to get into a rhythm, and also opens up all other days of the week for focused tasks.

Empower Employees to Prioritize

In any role, prioritization is crucial to success. Rather than making meetings an obligation, employees should feel empowered to make their own decisions. Encourage your team to ask the question, Which activity has the highest ROI?

Aren’t Engaging

Engagement is a key point of concern for all meeting hosts, and it is easy to see why. A meeting can quickly turn into a monologue with very little input from attendees. When this happens, people tune out and begin to think about what else they could be doing. Consider the following easy ways to increase engagement in meetings.

Include Key Stakeholders

The first step will always be to ensure that the right people are in each meeting. Avoid hosting a meeting where ten people are in attendance when only three are truly needed. 

Create Incentives

Creating incentives for engaging is another great way to maintain interest during meetings. It might mean assigning each person a speaking role or giving them another reason to pay complete attention. 

Save the Updates for Later

Of course, sometimes the problem with engagement is that the meeting wasn’t necessary in the first place. Too often, meetings are used for simple updates or breakdowns. Why not make these into an employee intranet update or email instead? 

Focus on providing updates in other mediums that people can embrace on their own time to avoid any wasted time.

Take a Conscious Approach 

Meetings are a crucial part of any business model. However, we have allowed pointless meetings to become the new norm. Especially in the WFH COVID era, too many meetings are exhausting workers and dinging productivity.

If you are looking to create valuable meetings with engaged attendees, be sure to focus on creating meetings that are necessary, organized, and catered to the people who truly need to be in attendance. 

By optimizing your meetings, you can boost your team’s productivity and improve communication. Remember, meetings should be a valuable place for teammates to collaborate – not just a space to chat.