You’ve planned the project sitting in front of you and laid the necessary groundwork to forge ahead. You’re finally ready to jump in when…a notification pops up that you have a meeting about an unrelated topic on the other side of the building. You have no choice but to switch gears and put your work on the back burner, even if the meeting’s agenda has little to do with your job role.
Time is money, and the costs add up fast when unnecessary or aimless meetings keep employees from working on more productive endeavors. Most employees attend 62 meetings per month, but consider half of these meetings a waste of time, according to one infographic from software development firm Atlassian. In terms of wasted salary hours, these unnecessary meetings cost U.S. businesses $37 billion each year.
Whether long-winded weekly meetings are eating into everyone’s worktime or your team favors an in-person approach when electronic correspondence alone would cut it, it’s time to step back and think about how your company can streamline their approach to meetings. Here are four tips for running effective and efficient meetings in the modern workplace.
Keep Track of Time
It’s easy for a 15-minute check-in to turn into a convoluted 45-minute discussion without a firm agenda and a timekeeper. Overshooting meeting times can add up quickly. Using productivity apps can help keep your team on track and provide a big-picture look at how your company handles meetings. PC Mag recommends Do.com, a free app that “will guide you toward better meeting practices while also providing a central place for archives, follow-ups, and more.”
However, keeping time doesn’t mean filling an entire meeting slot for the sake of faithfully upholding the agenda. If you touch on every topic in 20 minutes, there’s no reason to circle back just to make it to the 30-minute mark.
Use Electronic Correspondence
Pulling people away from their desks is part of what tends to make meetings unproductive. Meetings can often feel like “hurry up and wait” when they routinely start later than their allotted time. What if there was a less disruptive way to touch base with coworkers without making a trek all the way across the building or campus? As one Entrepreneur contributor writes, “Do you really need a staff meeting every week when an e-mail update might do? Fewer staff meetings mean less talk and more action.”
Think about how harnessing the power of electronic correspondence can help you cut down on lost time. Consider posting updates in a centralized online forum or sending them out over email rather than announcing them verbally at meetings. Teams who want to avoid the disruption of leaving their desks and walking to a different wing can employ video conferencing technology to get face time without completely interrupting their day.
Make Training Interactive
Employee training is necessary, and sometimes legally required, to keep workers up to date on policy shifts, new equipment and changing compliance protocols. But an hours-long training meeting that prompts employees to tune out after the first five lecture slides is not beneficial for anyone involved. Presenters can help meeting attendees become active participants rather than passive observers with interactive training activity sessions. For instance, Poll Everywhere allows trainers to insert check-up surveys at 15-minute intervals throughout their presentation. As trainees answer the prompts on their phone, tablet or laptop, the display changes as poll results pour in. Not only do these interactive surveys break up the overall session, but they can help reinforce the most important concepts for employees before moving on.
Use an Opt-Out Policy
Last, but certainly not least, allow employees to use their discretion to turn down certain meeting invitations. As CEO Gabriel Bristol suggests, consider your return on investment for attending a certain meeting. If it’s not the best use of your time, mix things up and politely decline. If you manage a team or shape company policy, make sure that employees know that they have the option to decline certain non-mandatory meetings.
Streamline how your company manages meetings by tweaking length, frequency, medium and content. From mandatory training sessions to weekly updates, it pays to optimize meeting strategy across the board.