The Truth Behind Workplace Meetings


Meetings at the workplace are something we cannot avoid, no matter how hard we try. There is always an essential subject to discuss, the past month’s results to summarize, or the upcoming quarter to plan. And even if the meeting doesn’t directly concern you, you have to sit and listen. Not surprisingly, meetings have earned a bad reputation and the title of time thieves. Have you ever heard someone saying, “I wish I could attend more meetings”?

So what’s wrong with those meetings? Is there any good about them? We can use LiveCareer’s research to answer those and more questions. 

Meetings In Practice

The average time spent on meetings says a lot about whether we’re going to love or hate them. The majority of research respondents, 36%, spend 4–7 hours in meetings per week. Also, a little more than one-third, 32%, devotes 7–10 hours each week attending various appointments. We can conclude that 68% spend 4–10 hours per week in meetings. Committing somewhere around one working day to meetings it’s pretty bearable.

What’s worth mentioning is that 11% devote 10–13 hours per week to meetings, while only 2% are unlucky to spend 14 hours or more.

Interestingly, women were more likely to spend 7–10 hours a week in meetings, 35%, compared to men, 27%. Conversely, men were more likely to fall under the 4–7 hours category, 39% vs. 35%.

However, in the context of meetings, the most critical thing turns out to be the duration of a single session. Why? Because of attention span. People start losing attention quicker than you think. According to 43%, somewhere between 20–30 minutes is enough to stop listening. In the opinion of 30%, this time is a little longer and amounts to 30-40 minutes.

So the majority of people (73%) believe that 30 and 40 minutes are the maximum values exceeding which you cannot count on the meeting participants’ attention, especially the passive ones.

But if people are not paying attention to what is happening during the meeting, what else are they doing? 

Meeting distractions

Much can be done during uninteresting, poorly organized, and unproductive meetings. Employees, when asked what they’re doing instead of paying attention, admit that: 

  • 39% usually read the news on the internet.
  • Almost the same percentage of respondents, 38%, browse social media
  • Again 38% read a book.
  • 35% shop online. An interesting fact here – shopping online is the most common choice for women (40%). In turn, men most often choose to read news online (40%).
  • Almost one-third, 32%, start a text message conversation.
  • 31% play an online/mobile game.
  • 28% do other work-related tasks.
  • 7% draw or doodle.

Actually, we can say that meeting participants practice multitasking.

Meetings Backstage

There is more to meetings than just wasting time and blissful distractions. 

According to 83%, meetings are stressful. For 25%, in-person meetings are the most stressful events, while 31% are more terrified at the thought of online ones. In turn, 28% think that both events are equally stressful. 

And the reasons for that are different. The fear of public speaking, the need for preparation, lack of organizational skills, and Zoom fatigue or technology-related stress in case of online sessions. 

But it’s not only stress that makes us frustrated. The top five meetings pet peeves include:

  • meetings that begin later than planned
  • a lack of a clear agenda or meeting plan
  • asking excessive or unnecessary questions during meetings 
  • meetings that are scheduled too early or too late in the day
  • discussing topics that don’t apply to everyone

So, one question needs to be asked. Are meetings useful?

The Bright Side

Yes, they are. 3 in 5 respondents (61%) think that meetings are useful.

Meetings make it easier to make decisions and are great for networking but also for developing practical solutions. Some praise meetings because they simply like them, or thanks to meeting time at work passes quicker. 

So what’s the remedy for meetings? The happy medium is the right balance between the number of meetings and their duration. Moreover, sessions are not so painful if they’re well-prepared and have a well-structured plan. In combination with no delays, sticking to the topic, and talking about specifics, meetings can be productive and helpful. 

Meeting organizers and meeting participants, let’s improve the quality of meetings and change our mindset to more positive. 

Bio:Nina Pączka is a career advisor and job search expert at LiveCareer. She offers professional expertise to everyone wanted to gain insight into the job market. Her professional advice and guidance help people find a satisfying job and pursue a career. Nina’s mission is to support jobseekers in their path leading to finding a perfect job. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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