Employees waste nearly 13 days a year in ‘unproductive’ meetings, survey finds

Experts recommend encouraging interaction to make sure staff stay engaged

Employees waste almost 13 days a year in unproductive meetings, a recent European study has revealed. 

The survey of more than 2,000 employees from the UK, France and Germany found the average employee spends 187 hours in meetings per year – the equivalent of 23 days. 

However, 56 per cent of these meetings were deemed unproductive by workers polled by hotel brand Crowne Plaza Hotel & Resorts. 

“Meetings are essential for collaboration and reaching business goals, but ensuring catch-ups are effective isn’t always simple," said Mike Greenup, vice president of Crowne Plaza.

More than a third (34 per cent) admitted to switching off during meetings that lasted too long, while almost a quarter (23 per cent) of those surveyed said they had witnessed someone fall asleep in a meeting. 

Janine Esbrand, life and career coach at Lightbox Coaching, advised meeting organisers to carefully consider whether all the invitees needed to be there. 

“People are most engaged when they are interested in the topic and feel their contribution is valued,” she said. “Once participants are at the meeting, avoid talking ‘at’ them and instead ask questions to encourage interaction.”

Dr Thomas Roulet, university senior lecturer in organisation theory at Cambridge Judge Business School, added: “As organisations are increasingly concerned with how democratic they are, they want to be sure everyone is given an opportunity to participate in decision-making. But in fact, only the most vocal employees get heard, while others disengage. In most cases, organisations can do without the meetings – and delegate the decision-making after having collected feedback.”

However, Roulet noted meetings can be helpful for bringing together two disconnected parts of an organisation. 

Meanwhile, Dr Sankalp Chaturvedi, associate professor of organisational behaviour and leadership at Imperial College Business School, remarked: “Meetings can be the bedrock of the efficient running and success of any organisation. But it’s important not too many attend and that everyone has a role to play and can comment on specific issues that impact upon the decision.” 

Earlier this year, a leaked email, reported on by the BBC, revealed Tesla CEO Elon Musk had instructed staff to “walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value”.

“It’s not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time,” the email continued.

Other research has suggested it’s not just meetings wasting employees’ time. A study by Michigan State University, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology earlier this week, found employees spend more than 90 minutes a day dealing with email interruptions.