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It’s pretty much inevitable that if you’ve worked with other people, no matter how closely, you’ve ended up in meetings that either could have been an email or that you didn’t need to be in. These can feel like a waste of time and be demoralizing. And if you’re in a career you aren’t thrilled about to begin with, it can make you want to quit.
A new survey found that, out of 632 workers, employees say they want to skip nearly a third of the meetings they’re invited to, even though they turn down only about 14% of them. And aside from the hit employees can take on morale, meetings can be bad for your health. Several studies have shown that when you sit in a poorly circulated room (say, a conference room) with a bunch of other people, the CO2 levels rise, which brings down high-level thinking and can carry long-term health risks.
But companies wouldn’t require so many meetings if they weren’t necessary, right?
Wrong. Some companies, like the 76 that were part of an experiment run by Vijay Pereira, a management professor at NEOMA Business School in Reims, France, have seen huge benefits from reducing meeting schedules. Across all those companies, the ones that performed the best during the two-year experiment were the ones that had at least two days a week with no meetings.
The theory is that teams get more out of a meeting when they don’t often happen because they’re only meeting each other when they really need it. Those businesses see communication levels rise, engagement among employees improve and productivity grow.
That’s not to mention the US$101 million that Steven Rogelberg, an organizational science, psychology and management professor at the University of North Carolina, calculated that companies with more than 5,000 employees waste every year on unnecessary meetings.
What’s the solution? He says to focus your meetings around questions, not topics. “If you can’t think of any questions, you shouldn’t have had the meeting,” he said.