The pandemic transformed for many workers what were once short conversations in a hallway or over a cubicle's wall into 30-minute video conferences.
Most companies have returned to work in some form or another after more than three years, but video calls and scheduled meeting are still largely absent. This is a major reason why burnout and productivity are on the rise.
Microsoft Corp. released a new report that analyzed 31,000 users and trillions in Microsoft 365 productivity signal. The results showed workers were drowning in unproductive tasks, with 64% of respondents saying they had trouble finding the time to complete their jobs.
Microsoft reports that only 43% of the time was spent on creating, including Excel, Word OneNote, and PowerPoint.
Meetings accounted for 23% of a typical day. Sixty-eight percent of workers claim they do not have enough uninterrupted time to focus during the day. And sixty percent of leaders are concerned about a lack innovation and ideas in their teams.
Microsoft's most avid users spend 8.8 hours per week on email and 7.5 in meetings.
A study conducted in 2022, by Future Forum (a collaborative research project led by Slack), found that executives spend 25 hours per week on average in meetings. However, nearly half of these could be eliminated without negative impact.
The top three issues that workers ranked when asked to list their problems were: When workers were asked to rank their top three problems, the number one problem was inefficient meetings. The number two problem was too many meetings. Three was too many meetings. Lacking clear goals ranked second.
What are the main problems with meetings? According to workers who were surveyed, the problems with meetings are essentially all of them. The majority of workers felt that it was hard to brainstorm in virtual meetings, catch up when they arrived late or understand what to do following a meeting.
Microsoft Teams calls and meetings increased by 192% per week, a result of the pandemic. Only 35% of employees think that anyone would miss them if the skipped many of these meetings.
The Covid-19 pandemic spread across America and productivity initially increased. This was partly due to workers working remotely, as well as the loss of millions jobs. By the end of 2021, when hybrid setups became common, productivity had leveled out and in some cases, even declined. This is according to Federal Reserve data.
Too many meetings can not only reduce productivity, but also hurt the bottom line. In 2022, research from software company Otter.ai found that companies spend $25,000 per employee just to attend meetings.
How to improve meetings
Jessica Kriegel is the chief scientist for workplace culture at Culture Partners. She said that the productivity issue is a combination of cultural and managerial issues. It is a myth that people enjoy meetings. This is not true.
Kriegel wrote in an email that 'no one wants to spend all day in meetings and/or responding to emails'. Most people want to interact, communicate, create, iterate and collaborate. We've shifted our work to rely on emails and meetings, which is not good.
Kriegel says AI can automate certain aspects, like summarizing emails and meetings. These tools could help workers save time while still attending meetings and sending emails.
She explained that organizations often act as "priority vacuums" where everyone is focused solely on completing certain tasks, even if they don't correspond to the goals of an organization. Automation can help shift focus from tracking these tasks to larger-scale discussions about the future.
Some companies may also want to reduce the number of meetings they hold.
Not everything has to be optimized, rushed or any other way. We sometimes need fewer meetings and calls and to focus more on the relationships between colleagues and what [the organization] is trying to achieve. Even if we don't grind every second, it's fine, and everyone benefits,' Kriegal said.
Naveen Bhateja, executive vice-president and chief people officer of Medidata, says AI can help managers to hire faster and create actionable items and documents out of existing meetings.
Bhateja offers four simple steps to improve the efficiency of meetings:
Establish an agenda. Setting up a meeting agenda will help the meeting stay on track and avoid straying. Only invite those who are necessary: Each person should have a reason for attending the meeting. Finish with an action plan. This means that you end a meeting by defining the next steps and assigning them to the employees present. These steps must be completed in a specific amount of time.
Bhajeta stated that he had seen many organizations give their employees a rest with tactics such as 'no-meeting' Fridays. This is a good way to increase productivity and prevent meeting fatigue within the organization.