Meetings have drastically increased since the pandemic began, now accounting for 21.5 hours of your week. What’s worse, per the National Bureau of Economic Research, attendees per meeting went up by 13.5%. Yet still, we strive for “efficiency” with 15 or 30-minute sessions, and there is a relentless need to pivot, reorient, and prepare for even more meetings.

Why do so many meetings get scheduled? There are many reasons to schedule a meeting. Some are recurring meetings for weekly check-ins and collaborative needs of the team. Some are one-off meetings for non-recurring items, like annual strategic planning, putting out a client fire or team building events. However, most get set because people simply don’t know any better.

Employees get frustrated when:

  1. They think the meeting is a waste of time and they are unsure why they are needed in the room.
  2. They are not sitting at their desk getting actual work done in a timelier manner.
  3. They are not trusted to do their job, by a boss that feels the need to micromanage all decision-making.

Using midlevel salary data from Glassdoor, the cost of a 10-person one-hour meeting is approximately $2,340. If you have 100 people in meetings, that amounts to almost a quarter of a million dollars per week. This doesn’t factor in the opportunity cost of not accomplishing other tasks or lost customer time. “Now that the meeting is over, I can start to get work done” is heard in the hallways. So, what can you do better?

Well-organized meetings create fresh thinking and enable better decisions. To accomplish this, Columbia Business School professor, Christopher Frank, shares a quick four-question process.

  1. What is the meeting purpose – inform or compel? This answer will fundamentally change how you prepare, the information needed, whom you engage, and how you lead the meeting.
  2. What is the issue in seven words or fewer? Have each person articulate why they’re meeting in seven words. If their replies are inconsistent or lengthy, don’t meet. Instead, work on aligning expectations.
  3. Who has already weighed in and what did they have to say? Taking stock of who is already engaged reduces the risk of revisiting existing conversations and moves the dialogue forward.
  4. What could surprise me in this meeting? Asking this question highlights outliers in the data, draws connections between seemingly unrelated conclusions, and focuses the discussion on what’s new.

Try to cap your recurring weekly meetings at 20% of your time. One 1:1 meeting with each of your direct reports, one meeting with your manager, one meeting with the people you are managing as a group, and one meeting with your peers to collaborate on needs between departments. That leaves plenty of other time for the one-off meetings that come up during the normal course of business. This keeps you efficiently working on the most important work that needs to get done and keeps your team efficiently working on their most important work.

When people start checking projects off their to-do list, they feel a sense of accomplishment, the business moves forward, and a healthy vibe is maintained in the office.  As a bonus, you will be shocked how much more work will actually get done!

For a targeted workshop on managing meetings effectively for your team, contact Learning & Organization Development.



Harvard Business Review (2022, October 28) Rebecca Hinds and Robert I. Sutton: Meeting Overload is a Fixable Problem

Inc. (2022, October 10) Marcel Schwantes: Tired of Too Many Meetings? This Brilliant 4-Question Meeting May Be Your Solution

Forbes (2022, August 3) George Deeb: Too Many Meetings Suffocate Morale & Productivity