How much do your meetings really cost?

Meetings are definitely a big part of what we do in our professional lives. Every job available in the market today has some sort of version of a meeting that takes place between workers, with the reason being that they are just so useful in getting things done.

But how much do they really cost?

The Meeting “Phenomenon”

From developing communications across cross-functional partners, fostering innovation through group brainstorming, and assisting each team in tackling business-critical decisions, the material usefulness of meetings is self-evident in the results they bring out.

But meetings are definitely evolving and with change comes unexpected costs. Suddenly your meetings that were once just in your office are now spread out to different regions, with possibly even more stakeholders involved than before. 

All this came with the changing tides of the meeting environment and the continuing push for remote work is changing how much these meetings cost. Forbes has stipulated that as many as 25% of North American jobs are likely going to have a remote component by the end of 2022, with the number likely to increase into 2023. 

That’s why you’ll need to take a closer look into your meetings and see how much they really are costing you now. 

How Meetings Cost More Than You Think

Because of how normal it is to see meetings in the workplace, we often find ourselves almost overloaded with these get-togethers to the point that the only free time we have at any given workday is over lunch (and at times not even that). 

What’s more is that, despite their definitive usefulness, meetings actually cost your company much more than you realize. In this short article, we will go through the different costs that meetings generate, some of which you might not have realized. 

The Costs of Your Meetings, Steadily Growing Over the Years

Contrary to how some people might view it, meetings aren’t exactly cheap. Even those short meetings between coworkers to discuss progress and next steps can mean millions for your company when compounded across hundreds, if not thousands, of employees. Recent studies have shown that the average executive spends 23 hours a week in meetings alone

But you don’t need to quantify the hours to be familiar with the general grievances that meetings cause. Paul Axtell writes for HBR that often people think that there are too many meetings, that they’re a waste of time, and that nothing gets done are usually the top issues people have with meetings. 

The Logistics Perspective

Starting off with likely the most obvious angle regarding improperly planned meetings is the logistical waste it can generate for you and your company. Inc. had published a report indicating that most major American companies collectively waste roughly $25 million in meeting costs a day through badly developed meetings. 

Even electricity usage is up with the recent shift to virtual, with weekly regular Zoom of 6 participants almost equating to 10 miles driven by a petrol car over a year!

The Efficiency Perspective

Well-run companies understand that it’s often the unseen costs that drive the most impact in any business. In this case, the impact on company efficiency due to badly executed meetings can’t be overlooked. 

The abovementioned HBR article recently discussed a study that employees find that 74% of meetings are unproductive and as much as 65% even felt that their meetings actually hindered them from doing work. This is further corroborated by a Mckinsey article on “better decision making”, where it was noted that almost 60% of the time used in some meetings lead to no actual decisions being made.

What’s even more interesting is that another HBR article claims that 73% of study respondents even use the meeting time in an attempt to do work not related to the meeting at all. It’s definitely not efficient if your team is actively looking for other tasks to do. 

The Time Perspective

Unfortunately for many of us, time remains a zero-sum game. Michael Mankins, the partner at Bain, recently did the math and came to the conclusion that his weekly meetings came up to 300,000 hours spent a year!

What’s more shocking is that the average employee spends almost 4 hours of their week just in preparation for meetings alone. That’s 200 hours annually you spend just in preparation for meetings when you need just 250 to become a fully licensed commercial air pilot. 

The Innovation Perspective

One of the most overlooked aspects of how damaging a poorly managed meeting could be is how well creativity is fostered. It’s no secret that innovation is key for any business wanting to further develop, but it’s important to understand that creativity is a large part in contributing to the development of innovations in the first place. 

Researchers Melanie Brucks and Jonathan Levav have noted the impairment that workers face in meetings when it comes to creativity in this new remote meeting environment. While limited to a few regions, the researchers did conclude that videoconferencing in particular can be a challenging space to generate new ideas. 

Do Meetings the Right Way

That’s not to say that we should do away with meetings entirely. The practice is still immensely helpful in getting everyone together and providing alignment on specific steps to take on any given task. What should be changed then is how people approach meetings and ultimately execute them. 

For starters, engagement plays a key factor in ensuring your team remains motivated in the projects you’re currently working on. Engagement can present itself in many different ways, with one of the most common ways being through workshops. These variable-length sessions can really help dig deep into the perspectives of your team to arrive at a more holistic answer to a particular problem as well as make them feel more involved with the overarching goal your team has. 

How to Reduce Meeting Costs

As you may have realized by now, an effective meeting goes beyond just having an agenda and starting on time. It requires active participation and management by the facilitator as well as other participants with specific roles in the meeting. 

Below are a few tips on how better to manage your meetings and avoid the pitfalls of the average time sink meeting. 

Get Members Participating

Your meeting costs come out in different ways, with one of the more lingering effects being its costs to your efficiencies. One way to circumvent the issues around efficiency woes is to keep your team engaged through different activities

One way is to utilize an online “whiteboard”, which is essentially a dashboard that organizes your team’s thoughts in different “buckets” or “boxes” so that you know exactly where to look. These whiteboards can get more involvement from your team as they work together (and even individually) in developing the whiteboard and updating it as it goes on. 

This also allows your team members to be more participative in idea generation and feedback as they have a direct hand in what goes on and what gets noted down during the meeting.

Keep Meetings Short and Sweet

While the one-hour meeting might be the standard, you might be surprised with how much you can get done in just 30 minutes. Keep a tight agenda (and even set a timer if needed), understand and note key insights, and properly assign and secure the next steps, and you’ll be surprised you spent so much time just getting decorum in your old meetings. 

Have Your “Next Step” in Mind

Meetings are not just the preparation that comes into them but also the results that you come out of them with. It’s definitely good to have a specific agenda to discuss during the meeting and stay focused on it, but without a clear action at the end, you essentially just spent time chatting about possibilities. Good ideas might come throughout the meeting, but you’ll need to crystallize those thoughts into your next steps moving forward to ensure you keep progress at a steady pace. 

Keep your next steps specific and avoid any vagueness in how to tackle something. The more granular you can get (at times) the better, and assigning specific tasks to individual members (or groups) can lead to a proper division of responsibilities. 

Avoid Scheduling Every Meeting

It goes without saying that not all meetings need to be meetings. Sometimes coordination via asynchronous technologies like messages or questions is enough to get your entire team aligned on a specific plan of action. 

This goes doubly important for teams that are taking full advantage of the different remote working technologies available now. When working with teams that are likely to be in different local times, having asynchronous content can help keep everyone aligned on the next steps and key discussion points. 

Leverage Different Methodologies

When it comes to the elusive effective meeting, sometimes it helps to have a few referential materials to help you along the process. There are numerous design thinking methodologies currently available for use by the intrepid manager, but you can also utilize different management practices to keep things on track. 

While different methodologies are likely best suited for their own specific use cases (from Kanban to mind maps), it falls on you as the meeting facilitator to properly ascertain which tool is best for your current meeting set-up. Done correctly, these methodologies can help boost creativity, facilitate problem-solving, develop better action plans, and more. 

What does it cost you?

In case you’re now wondering how much your meetings cost, we developed a nice tool to help you out! 

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