Future Tech

How pointless meetings can harm well-being at work

Tan KW
Publish date: Tue, 06 Jun 2023, 10:11 AM
Tan KW
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Future Tech

The meeting is an increasingly contested way of working, especially with the rise of remote work and videoconferencing. Managers and employees alike are complaining that they spend too much time on this deep-rooted part of corporate life, and that it has repercussions on their personal well-being.

All surveys point to the same conclusion: work meetings are on the increase, much to the dismay of their participants. Executives spend an average of 25 hours a week in meetings, whether by videoconference or around a table, according to a study carried out by Future Forum and reported by Bloomberg Law. And it's a practice they consider excessive and of little interest.

In fact, the 10,000 white-collar workers surveyed estimate that more than half of these business meetings could be eliminated without affecting their productivity. Attendance at these Google Meet, Zoom or in-person meetings could represent a loss of earnings of almost €100mil for large private companies, according to Bloomberg.

But that’s not the only drawback of this overload of meetings, sometimes dubbed “meetingitis”. In fact, the proliferation of meetings greatly undermines everyone's autonomy and freedom of organisation. Many employees accept the invitations they receive out of conformism, or for fear of being seen - especially by their superiors - as an unmotivated slacker.

This capitulation can become a real source of frustration at a time when many employees complain of not being able to carry out their tasks successfully.

“Time is our most precious resource. So wasting it in meetings that don’t appear to serve any purpose is tiring and tedious. Awareness of opportunity costs - knowing that you could be doing something more positive or productive - adds to frustration that saps energy and motivation,” productivity coach, Juliet Landau-Pope, told Stylist.

A potential motivation drain

Team cohesion can also be undermined by this tyranny of meeting culture. Some employees may take offense at not being invited to one of these sessions, and see their exclusion as a kind of “quiet firing”.

Others are tempted to see this overload of pointless meetings as a form of micromanagement or even excessive control on the part of their superior, even if managers can suffer as much as they do from this time-consuming practice.

According to Laura Vanderkam, author of several books on time management and productivity at work, the result is that repeated meetings can lead employees to become disengaged from their company.

“In the long term, people generally feel less loyal to organisations that waste their time. It’s hard to keep really good talent in that scenario, which means that the organisation will be less effective as people self-select out of it,” she told Stylist.

But how can we avoid “meetingitis”?

First, by questioning the necessity of meetings. Most meetings could be replaced by a simple written document or a chat channel on Slack.

Executives need to reflect on the merits of these gatherings and, if need be, rethink their format to make them more relevant and effective. The aim is not to give up completely on these moments of discussion, which remain a key part of office life.

 - AFP Relaxnews

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