Meeting Too Much?

By Christine Neuberger

According to the National Statistics Council, meetings eat up 37 percent of employee time. Data also show that 11 million business meetings happen each day. Staggering, isn’t it? So, why so many meetings? Well, there’s a meeting to suit every occasion. People meet to sell, launch, celebrate, educate, team up and brainstorm. And that’s just for starters.

However, a study commissioned by MCI WorldCom Conferencing found that most busy professionals can’t attend every meeting they’re invited to. Guess why? Huge demands on their time.

On the bright side: Of the heavy meeting-goers surveyed, overwhelming numbers see value in meetings. About 92 percent say meetings offer a chance to contribute – an indication that productive gatherings may have something to do with employees’ satisfaction with their jobs.

On the not-so-bright side: Meetings often don’t succeed. Ninety-one percent of the heavy meeting-goers acknowledge daydreaming during meetings. More than 70 percent reported bringing other work to meetings and nearly 40 percent admit dozing off.

Then consider the impact on the bottom line. For in-person meetings requiring plane travel, the costs can go sky-high. On average, trips last for more than three days, demanding seven hours in transit. The per-person cost, including airfare, hotel and meals, averages $1,365.21. And those out-of-pocket expenses don’t include lost productivity and other costs associated with the time and stress associated with being away.

Meetings do surprise, though. The study found a link between meeting length and productivity. Turns out longer meetings – especially events lasting five or more hours – are more likely to produce than shorter gatherings.

During the study, research included contacts with more than 1,300 professionals who heavy meeting-goers. InfoCom of Greenwich, CT, a division of NFO Worldwide Inc., conducted the “Meetings in America” study.