The unseen cost of meetings

We’ve probably all felt frustrated when we’ve had to sit through what feels like yet another pointless meeting. If you’ve ever felt that your time could be better spent on something else, you’d be right. Studies show that unnecessary meetings cost UK businesses over £191 billion a year, with the statistics showing just how much time is being wasted in the average company:

“The average office worker spends 10 hours 42 minutes every week, preparing for and attending 4.4 meetings, with 2.6 of those deemed unnecessary. With the average meeting revealed to have 6.8 attendees, this equates to annual staff costs for unnecessary meetings per business of £35,395.36, based on ONS average earnings data. With 5.4 million businesses in the UK, this means the total staff cost per year of unnecessary meetings is more than £191bn.”

So why do businesses keep wasting all this time and money on meetings, and how can you make sure meetings in your business are kept to a productive minimum?

Audit your meetings

How much time and money does your business lose due to unnecessary meetings? Conduct an audit for a couple of weeks and find out. Remember, it’s not just about the time actually spent in the meeting itself. How much time is spent arranging and preparing for these meetings, and following up on them? Consider how long these meeting-related tasks take:

  • Meeting set-up and prep – booking the room, arranging a time when everyone is free, emailing back and forth with attendees, writing an agenda, preparing the room, preparing presentations or ideas to bring to the meeting
  • Meeting itself – how much of the time is actually being used productively? How much time is added by people turning up late, or spending the first few minutes chatting?
  • Meeting follow-up – tidying up the meeting room, sending round the minutes and any follow-up actions

Once you calculate how much time is taken on each of these steps, the number of people involved and the cost of their time based on their salary, you might be astonished when you realise the true cost to your business.

Make the most of meeting time

While you can legitimately cut some meetings out altogether – a phone call or email will suffice for many of the issues discussed in meetings – some are genuinely necessary. For these, you can minimise time and maximise productivity by using meeting time as efficiently as possible. You can do this by:

  • Writing an agenda outlining what will be discussed, and sticking to it
  • Not inviting more people than absolutely necessary
  • Keeping meetings short – this focuses people’s minds
  • Starting on time, even if some attendees are late
  • Eliminating distractions – don’t allow attendees to bring phones or laptops so that they can concentrate fully on the purpose of the meeting

It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is; cutting down on meetings and streamlining the ones you do have makes sense. Not only does it save your business money, but it means your employees can focus on doing what they do best – their job. It’s a win-win situation…