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Workplace

Here’s why work meetings are mostly a waste of time

- March 30, 2024 3 MIN READ
"Smile & wave team, smile & wave..." Photo: AdobeStock
More than three-quarters of work meetings in Australia are ineffective and are stopping people getting their actual work done, according to new research.

The Workplace Woes: Meeting Edition report, released by Atlassian, involves a survey of 5,000 knowledge workers across four continents, including 1,000 employees in Australia, in partnership with Wakefield Research.

The research found that while many Australian workplaces have embraced remote and hybrid work following the COVID-19 pandemic, many are still relying on old-school working methods that are heavily reliant on meetings.

But this may not be the most efficient or effective way to work anymore, with the research finding that many of these meetings are pointless, frustrating, and block employees from completing the work they need to.

The report found that meetings in Australian workplaces are ineffective 76% of the time, and they were listed by those surveyed as the number one barrier preventing them from completing their normal day-to-day work.

This meant they listed meetings as more of a roadblock than a lack of motivation, unclear goals, unclear responsibilities and being unsure about who to work with.

“They aren’t evil, they’re just poorly done,” the report said.

“Our research revealed that the meeting culture at most organisations actually makes it harder for teams to reach their goals.”

The survey also found that just under 65% of respondents attended meetings where the intended goal was never stated, and more than 45% had to work overtime at least a few days per week due to meetings taking up too much of their work time.

Ironically, just under three-quarters of workers said that they often participated in meetings which simply led to the decision to hold another meeting.

The overall global survey largely reflected the results in Australia, with respondents saying that meetings were ineffective 72% of the time and just under 80% of people saying that they are expected to attend so many meetings that it’s hard for them to get their work done.

According to the report, 80% of global respondents said they would be more productive in their jobs if they could spend less time in meetings, and many of these could simply be an email.

“Few things are more irritating than being forced to listen to information that could be read in half the time – all while tasks pile up and work sits unfinished,” the report said.

‘Meetings don’t have to suck’

The report doesn’t recommend meetings be canned entirely, but that they should be done better and more efficiently, such as through setting a clear agenda, ensuring they don’t go for more than 15 minutes and assigning a facilitator so everyone is able to contribute.

“Meetings will always be a part of teamwork, but they don’t have to suck,” the report said.

“Our research uncovered some strong clues as to how to improve the meetings we can’t eliminate.”

This can be done through cutting the number of low priority meetings within an organisation and grouping others together in order to focus time, according to the report.

Employees should also assign time in their work calendars for their commitments, and schedule in blocks of up to two hours for focused work, accounting for about 30-40% of their work time in a week.

The report also recommended that “open collaboration” blocks be scheduled each week allowing for impromptu work sessions, taking up about 10-20% of the working week, and for workers to allocate specific time to respond to messages so they are not constantly checking notifications.

Flexible work and online meetings are likely here to stay, with recent research finding that the younger an employee is, the more likely they are to say flexibility is their most important consideration when they are looking to change jobs.

Another report found that a good relationship between a manager and their employees is crucial for efficiency within a workforce.

The research found that the majority of workers are more productive if they have a manager who cares, but that most employees would not describe their current boss as appreciative.

 

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