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Want to put on a time-wasting masterclass? Have a meeting

By Kace O'Neill | |5 minute read

Productivity is arguably the most fundamental aspect of a workforce. Yet studies show that meetings are a key detractor of it. So, why are we still having them?

Meetings are a pillar of workplace duties and have been for a long time. But has the initial point that a meeting previously held been forgotten?

By definition, a meeting is a planned occasion when people come together, either in person or online, to discuss something. Yes, this aspect is still happening, but often nothing is coming out of it.


The disgruntled opinion of meetings being a waste of time transcends across all facets of society. It can happen in politics, education, sports, work, households, and any time when we as humans interact within a group, productivity can go out the window, and our precious time can be wasted.

Atlassian’s latest research has highlighted this feeling, showing that 72 per cent of the time, meetings are ineffective. Seventy-eight per cent of respondents also stated that they’re expected to show face at so many meetings per day that it is directly disrupting their work.

The most alarming statistic was that 51 per cent have to work overtime at least a few days a week due to meeting overload, and for those at the director level and up, that number rises to 67 per cent. Meanwhile, 76 per cent agree they feel drained on days when they have a lot of meetings.

The report displayed some of the key reasons why individuals leave meetings feeling uninspired:

  • Can’t get a word in: A handful of voices tend to dominate the conversation, leaving most attendees struggling to contribute their thoughts.
  • Could’ve been an email: Few things are more irritating than being forced to listen to information that could be read in half the time – all while tasks pile up and work sits unfinished.
  • No clarity on next steps: Too many people leave meetings with no idea what’s happening next. No decisions were made, and nobody knew what was expected of them.
  • Conversational chaos: Without a clearly stated purpose or agenda, meetings lack focus.
  • Repeat information: Sitting through an announcement for the fourth or fifth time is mind-numbing. No wonder people sneak in other work during meetings.

Taking control of this meeting conundrum is crucial to regaining productivity. Eighty per cent of respondents said they’d be more productive if they spent less time in meetings.

For 54 per cent of knowledge workers, meetings dictate the structure of each day, instead of time for “real work” taking priority. Because it is so ingrained in the daily routine for a number of workers, deploying strategies to relegate this ‘meeting pandemic’ is vital.

Here are some of the potential strategies from the report:

  • Decline low-priority meetings and group the rest together to free up focus time.
  • Block time on your calendar for commitments like school drop-offs and appointments.
  • Schedule 90 to 120-minute blocks for deep work – ideally, 30 to 40 per cent of your week.
  • Schedule “open collaboration” blocks throughout your week to allow for impromptu work sessions with teammates – ideally, 10 to 20 per cent of your week.
  • Schedule “respond to messages” time so you aren’t tempted to check notifications in real-time.

To escape this time-wasting cycle, new strategies have to be deployed, or else workers are going to continue to be extremely frustrated. Leaders in this case can also set the tone for the workers around them. If they set a precedent on time management, persevering productivity, and making meetings count, then workers should follow suit, which along with the strategies will work to regain productivity throughout the organisation.

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.