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How the Industry Can Capitalize on Meeting Madness by Rob Kirkbride

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Can we have a quick meeting to talk about, well, meetings? It doesn’t take a study to realize we have too many formal meetings. But I’m going to cite a few to show that in the wake of COVID, the meeting problem is getting worse, not better.

So what’s the big deal? Why should we care about the number of meetings we are all holding? According to research from tech firm Otter. ai, 70% of all meetings keep employees from working and completing their tasks. Simply put, worker productivity is being hurt because they are attending too many meetings.

You might think hybrid and remote work would have helped cut down the number of meetings we attend. The opposite is true. Consider the following:

  • The remote work model increased the weekly meeting time by 10%, thus resulting in three additional meetings per week, per employee.
  • 70% of employees experienced a 70% increase in meetings after work from home was initiated.
  • Since the pandemic, the rate of one-on-one meetings increased by 18%, and check-ins and team social meetings increased by 10%, with half the meetings taking place regularly.
  • The number of meetings attended by a worker on average rose by 13.5%.
  • The average meeting count rose from 5.9 meetings, which were observed before the lockdown, to 6.9 meetings after.

What do workers have to say about all these meetings? Plenty, according to the study. Researchers found:

  • 29% of participants prefer Tuesday as the favorite meeting day, while 25% prefer Wednesday. Conversely, 47% perceive Monday as the worst day for meetings, while 40% choose Friday as the worst day.
  • Workers of all ages and industries consider arriving late to a meeting as the biggest taboo.
  • Younger employees are 15% less likely to be bothered by cell phone usage, but they are 10% more likely to be bothered by people eating in meetings.
  • 78% of workers believe that their meeting schedules are chaotic. 38% assign fault to the upper management, while 16% blame their direct manager.
  • 64% of employees are more excited about meetings when they are well-planned. This is an exception for younger generations. 71% of 18-29-year-olds say free food is the most exciting factor for attending a meeting.

The office furniture industry can’t manage the workplace for companies, but we can help guide them toward the best workplace possible. Large, formal meeting rooms are still found in corporate offices, but they are not being specified in the same numbers as, say, in the 1980s. Small meeting rooms are the norm now.

Space can do a lot to affect behavior. So the best way to reduce the number of meetings everyone holds would be to make every other space in the office work better for quick collaboration, where most of the innovation and work actually gets done.

Again, the meeting problem gives our industry another chance to speak to our customers and consult with them about how furniture and the space that it is in can help. Now I have a meeting I have to get back to…

Originally published in the Jan 5th issue of Business of Furniture by Rob Kirkbride.

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