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  • Writer's pictureHennie Brittz

The REAL Price of Our New Meeting Culture

Ineffective team meeting comic strip

Have you found yourself joking about your "night job," as you juggle endless back-to-back meetings and work in the evenings just to stay on top of things? Or, like me, have you taken your laptop to the bathroom to avoid missing a beat in your hectic schedule? Welcome to the post-pandemic world, where meetings dominate our days and the line between work and personal life blurs.

But at what cost?

The financial toll of unproductive meetings is staggering. According to Zippia, an estimated R695 billion is lost annually on such meetings. To put this into perspective, let's calculate the cost of an unproductive meeting for just one team.

Illustrative cost of an unproductive meeting

Let’s take an average annual salary per employee: R700 000,00.

Hourly Rate Calculation:

  • Annual Salary / (Working Days per Month × Hours per Day × Months per Year)

  • R700 000.00 / (21.67 × 8 × 12) = R336.48

Cost of one unproductive two-hour meeting for 10 people:

  • Hourly Rate × Number of Participants × Meeting Duration

  • R336.48 × 10 × 2 = R6 730,00.

Now let’s take into consideration the average person’s meeting schedule. Our research shows that individuals attend between 11 to 15 meetings per week, with weekly team and project meetings being the most common. Notably, nearly 50% of executives find themselves in 6 to 15 meetings weekly, whereas managers often exceed 16 meetings. Harvard research further reveals that a staggering 92% of employees view most meetings as costly and unproductive.

This breakdown shows just how quickly unproductive meetings can become a significant financial burden.

The Current State of Affairs

From our experience of working with countless teams across organisational levels and industries, we have uncovered several common challenges with the current state of meetings:

  • The "Teams Warriors" phenomenon: There’s a new trend where 'Teams Warriors' cc everyone into meetings, often without a clear purpose. This leads to overcrowded meetings and those present may not add real value.

  • Loss of meeting essence: Meetings should focus on actions, decisions and execution. However, they have shifted towards being platforms for information sharing, frequently lacking a defined agenda or outcomes. This leads to unstructured discussions and an array of unplanned topics, creating a false sense of urgency and disconnect from strategic goals. It often leaves people more confused about the way forward and what action/direction will be taken.

  • The illusion of busyness: There’s a misguided notion that being in meetings all day equals productivity. This often masks the real impact on performance which only becomes evident when scorecards are reviewed.

  • Digital dependency: The ease of digital communication has led to a constant barrage of interruptions, affecting the focus and productivity of employees. There's an emerging culture where people are thinking less for themselves as they increasingly rely on others for information.

  • The exhaustion of virtual meetings: Virtual meetings lack nonverbal communication cues and are significantly more tiring than their face-to-face counterparts. The overuse of screens, inadequate audio equipment and connectivity issues lead to mental fatigue and heightened stress levels.

  • Operational overload: There's a noticeable shift toward operational meetings at the expense of strategic and tactical planning. This imbalance means critical strategic discussions are sidelined, affecting the long-term direction and health of teams and organisations.

  • Lack of engagement and direction: When teams leave a meeting without clear action plans or require further clarity, it's a telltale sign of an unproductive meeting. The issue often lies in the leadership style; facilitating an online meeting requires a different approach, focusing on engagement, inclusivity and driving the values.

  • The missing link of cross-functional alignment: The lack of broader, cross-functional meetings means many employees are missing out on understanding the bigger picture of the organisation. Without effective channels like town hall meetings, team members may feel disconnected from the organisation's direction and purpose.

Practical Tools to Combat Meeting Fatigue

In an environment where the line between productive and unproductive meetings is often blurred, it's vital to explore practical tools like TeamConnect® that can redefine our meeting culture. TeamConnect® is a tried and tested team performance methodology that offers a structured approach to ensure every meeting is purpose-driven and result-oriented. Interested in how this can elevate your team's productivity and wellbeing?

Catch our second blog post on the impact of ineffective meetings on employee wellbeing, engagement and performance and how to combat this with effective practices and the implementation of TeamConnect®.

About the author

 Hennie Brittz, Managing Director at 2Collaborate

Hennie Brittz

has spent 15 years in business and consulting conceptualising, designing and implementing large-scale performance improvement processes.

Get to know more about Hennie on LinkedIn 

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