Workplace meetings have been with us forever. As an essential element of business management, they allow for making critical decisions, structuring development plans, solving problems, or going forward with key projects. Meetings can be formal or informal, brief or lasting long hours, productive or ineffective, in-person or online. And whatever they are, meetings are inevitable in any workplace. And what happens at their backstage?
LiveCareer conducted a study revealing the secret behind meetings. In this post, we’ll present employees’ opinions on workplace meetings, juxtapose online and in-person sessions, present their dark sides, and also show the good parts.
What’s behind meetings
Are people keeping their heads above water, or are they drowning in a meeting’s storm? Despite many employees complaining about attending too many meetings, the situation isn’t so bad. 35% spend between 4–7 hours in weekly meetings, while 32% devote 7–10 hours. This gives us 68% of workers who spend somewhere around 4–10 hours per week in meetings. A little more than one working day a week seems bearable. Interestingly, women spend more time at meetings (7–10 hours) compared to men (4–7 hours), 39% vs. 35%.
However, it isn’t the number of meetings but rather the duration of a single one that proves crucial. As the study demonstrates, participants’ attention span is not long at all. 43% say that 20–30 minutes it’s enough for people to stop focusing on what’s happening during the meeting. In turn, a more optimistic 30% believe that people survive 30-40 minutes before they stop paying attention.
Conversely, we can say that in the opinion of 73% of respondents, somewhere from 20 to 40 minutes is enough, and there is no point in holding longer meetings. They will prove to be ineffective.
When Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, once said, “the longer the meeting, the less is accomplished,” he was perfectly right.
In-person vs. online
With the beginning of the pandemic and the massive shift to remote work, for a long time, employees from all over the world could participate mainly in online meetings. However, it’s no longer the case. As the pandemic situation calmed down, employees returned to face-to-face meetings. Now 49% of research respondents admit that they attend in-person and online meetings equally frequently. However, these are in-person meetings that employees like more, 50% vs. 40%. Why’s that?
Whatever the form is, meetings are stress-inducing. 83% believe that meetings involve stress. Here, 31% admit that online sessions are more stressful than in-person meetings, 25%. For 28%, both types are equally stressful. So why are online meetings perceived as the more stressful ones?
It’s about technology. Before the pandemic, most employees weren’t used to using online conferencing tools. When problems arose, they were unable to handle them. So the standard meeting stress was exacerbated by troublesome technology.
Moreover. Have you ever encountered the term Zoom fatigue? It covers the feeling of tiredness, worry, and anxiety resulting in the overuse of virtual communication platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Reasons for such a syndrome are, i.e., excessive close-up eye contact and seeing yourself on camera.
This brings us to another aspect of meetings – participants’ visibility.
During in-person meetings, people see each other and maintain occasional eye contact. There is no escape from it. However, in online discussions, it’s one click that determines whether other participants can see us and whether we can see them. So since we know that the cameras contribute to Zoom fatigue, we can assume that people prefer to have them turned off, right?
According to the research, 46% of online meeting attendees prefer to have their cameras on. Only 29% desire to be invisible.
Meetings – productivity killers?
Not at all. The popular belief that meetings distract employees and destroy workflow, reducing productivity at the same time, might not be accurate.
According to 57% of research participants, online meetings positively affect their productivity. On the other hand, only 26% believe that online sessions reduce it.
A similar situation occurs in the case of in-person meetings. 59% admit that such sessions have no negative influence on their productivity; it’s the other way round. However, still, 25% observe a negative impact on productivity.
The reasons for that are simple. Good event organization, having a clear meeting plan or schedule, discussing topics that apply to everyone, and not extending the duration of meetings are factors that improve the meetings experience. Simply, if employees attend well-structured and well-planned sessions, they don’t feel like they are wasting their time. And if not drained from energy and motivation due to ineffective meetings, further work when the discussion is over seems to be even more productive.
The clue is that meetings shouldn’t keep people from real work; they should be real work.
Light in the tunnel
3 in 5 research respondents (61%) agree that meetings are useful. Employees value meetings as they:
- make it easier to make decisions – 74%
- are great for networking – 71%
- develop practical solutions – 71%
- make time at work pass quicker – 71%
Moreover, online meetings are an excellent opportunity to see and talk with coworkers when working remotely (according to 70%) and save time compared to direct meetings (70%). Additionally, in the view of 69% of respondents, online sessions are necessary when working remotely.
In turn, in-person meetings establish strong relationships (73%) and are richer in information than online meetings (68%).
Despise many disadvantages and people’s reluctance to attend meetings, and they are not just showpieces for managers. We cannot deny the usefulness of the meetings.
What’s the formula for the meetings?
The way to get the most out of meetings is to change mindsets to a more positive one. The employees’ aversion to meetings makes them a real work nuisance. However, this is due to poor meeting management covering delays, lack of preparation, no plan or schedule, or too frequent organization. That brings us to the second meeting remedy – improving the quality of meetings.
So the formula for organizing effective and pleasant meetings is simple: change your attitude and take care of quality over quantity.