Office fads come and go, but one thing remains constant: meetings, which can be as much a part of work culture as voicemail and microwaved lunches.
Even in this digital age, meetings remain the go-to way of handling everything from brainstorming ways to make busy times fun to personnel announcements. The average finance leader reported spending 24% of their time in a meeting, according to new research from Accountemps, a Robert Half company specialising in accounting and finance positions. But roughly one-fifth of that time was considered unproductive, according to the survey of more than 1,000 workers and 2,000 corporate finance leaders across the US.
“With the advancements in technology and emergence of remote meetings, there are sometimes more meetings on the calendar than needed,” said Richard Deosingh, an Accountemps senior regional vice-president based in New York City. “If meetings become stale and unnecessary, they can hurt productivity and impact morale.”
No one wants that. Here’s how to make meetings more useful for everyone:
Rethink the event. Think about all the meetings you schedule or attend. Are they all necessary? Some weekly check-ins may exist because they have always been held and not because they’re needed. If something can be done more effectively, speak up. “Come to the table with alternatives,” Deosingh said. Suggest an in-person meeting be held over the phone or even replaced with a few email messages between key participants.
Limit the size. Because smaller meetings typically run more efficiently, limit the number of attendees. “The key is giving some thought to the meeting before you schedule it,” Deosingh said. Spend time thinking about the meeting’s purpose. Then decide who needs to be present and whether it should involve a face-to-face meeting or be held remotely.
Create an agenda. Meetings should start and end on time, but many do not, frustrating nearly two-thirds of employees, according to Accountemps. Going off-track also has a downside, with half of employees expressing annoyance at meetings without structure. Agendas, even brief ones, are useful in keeping everyone informed and on target. If you can, distribute them a day or so in advance, and assign owners to topics and let them know how much time they will have.
Reconsider the length. Most meetings are scheduled to last 60 minutes, which may be too long, Deosingh said. After creating an agenda, you may realise the meeting can be done in less time. “Don’t just schedule an hour because that is what has traditionally been done,” he said. “Keep meetings short and sweet.”
— Dawn Wotapka is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Chris Baysden, an associate director for FM magazine, at Chris.Baysden@aicpa-cima.com.