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How Much Time Do We Spend in Meetings?

Calculate how much time you spend in meetings and see how to reduce unnecessary meetings and regain lost productivity in this guide.

By Hannah Ross  •   April 11, 2023  •   7 min read

It’s no secret that we all spend a little more time in meetings than we’d like to admit. Whether it’s a last-minute meeting with a disorganized colleague who hasn’t created a meeting agenda or a slew of meetings that don’t require your input or expertise, we all spend our fair share of time in meetings that aren’t necessary. In 2023, when meetings are more prominent than ever, it’s incredibly important to set boundaries and stand your ground. It’s time to say no to meetings that don’t serve you or your team. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the average amount of time that workers spend in meetings while detailing how you can eliminate unnecessary meetings and make the meetings you do have more productive. We’ll also outline alternative methods of communicating and teach you how to calculate how much time you spend in meetings so you can get to the bottom of how much it really costs to have a calendar full of meetings. 

How much time do we spend in meetings? 

Most of us spend an obscene amount of time in meetings. While this figure varies from person to person, middle management spends roughly 35% of their time in meetings. For upper management, the number rises to 50%, with the average employee spending around 12 hours per week preparing for and attending meetings. 

While meetings are the primary means of communication between colleagues, it’s important to remember that other methods of connecting can be used to cut time and boost efficiency. Other means of communication that can be used in the workplace include communicating asynchronously by email or through communication channels like Slack.

How much time should be spent in meetings? 

When determining how much time to spend in meetings, it’s important to remember that this figure looks different for everyone. To preserve productivity and maximize your time, a general rule of thumb is to schedule no more than three meetings per afternoon and save the morning for deep work. To avoid information overload or burnout, some organizations have even begun to schedule meeting-free days. This means that there are dedicated days with no meetings so everyone within the organization can focus on their work without distraction. 

Run efficient meetings, come to a decision, and get back to work

Level up your meeting habits to boost engagement and productivity with a collaborative meeting agenda. Try a tool like Fellow!

How to reduce unnecessary meetings 

The first step to reducing unnecessary meetings is declining meetings or only attending them for the time that’s needed. If you receive a meeting invite and there isn’t an agenda, politely decline. If you have a look at the topics that are being discussed for the first 15 minutes and notice the rest of the agenda doesn’t apply to you, politely excuse yourself when your part is finished. Remember: no agenda, no attenda! 

How to calculate how much time you spend in meetings

1Look at your calendar

Referencing your calendar is an excellent way to calculate how much time you spend in meetings. If you aren’t sure where to start, simply have a look at your calendar, add up how many meetings you participate in every week, and determine how long you spend in each meeting. If the number seems astronomical, it’s probably because you’re spending too much time in meetings. If you want to take a more scientific approach, there are several online resources you can leverage to get concrete answers. 

If you’re looking for a more specific value, like the cost of attending each meeting, Fellow’s meeting cost calculator displays the calculated meeting cost directly in the Google Calendar event. Depending on your workspace’s preference, this meeting cost can be displayed in terms of people hours or money. The goal of having meeting costs visible is to limit unproductive meetings, shorten existing meetings by making them more effective, and increase productivity.

2Use Fellow

Calculating how much time you spend in meetings is crucial to determining whether or not you and your teammates are using your time wisely. Luckily, Fellow’s analytics section provides you with workplace analytics like graphs, trends, and stats on how your organization uses Fellow, which you can use to derive conclusive insights about your workspace health. This means you can determine how much time you and your teammates are spending in meetings. 

When you first open the analytics section, you’ll see three graphs right away. Together, these graphs will give you a quick overview of your workspace health. The first graph focuses on overall meeting health (that is, how many meetings have agendas). The next graph shows overall calendar hygiene (that is, are people spending so much time in meetings that they have no focus time or time to get things done?). And last but not least, the third graph features the usage stats for your workspace (that is how many users have logged into your workspace and how often do they log in?).

4 tips for running a successful meeting 

1Have a clear purpose

Defining and clearly stating the purpose of your meeting is imperative, especially if you want to host an effective and productive meeting. If you haven’t defined your meeting’s purpose, simply postpone the meeting or take time to revisit the purpose before moving forward. Remember, if you haven’t clearly defined your meeting’s purpose, you run the risk of wasting everyone’s time.

2Create a shared meeting agenda

A meeting without an agenda is a meeting without purpose and direction, and those are two things you need to have if you intend to host a successful meeting. Building a great meeting agenda can be a game changer for your productivity, and tools like Fellow make it easier than ever to create thorough, collaborative agendas—especially when you can find everything you need to host an intentional meeting in one place. Fellow enables you to build collaborative meeting agendas, record decisions, and keep your teammates accountable before, during, and after every meeting.

3Only invite the necessary attendees

One of your key responsibilities as the meeting host is to prepare the guest list for your meeting. When deciding who to add to your next meeting, make sure to be mindful and only invite necessary teammates. There’s no need to invite more people than necessary. If certain people can be informed after the fact, circulate the meeting notes and update them that way. Remember, every time you invite someone to a meeting, you’re taking time out of their day and eliminating the amount of time they have for deep work.

4Leverage asynchronous communication

Leveraging asynchronous communication is an excellent way to boost productivity and eliminate unnecessary meetings. Instead of meeting face-to-face, you can encourage your teammates to instead provide updates asynchronously—whether in person or by video conferencing software. To encourage your teammates to communicate asynchronously, consider leveraging a simple automated message through Slack. Asynchronous meetings have also been increasingly gaining traction. Teams can meet asynchronously using tools like Fellow, which provides a timely hub where everyone can share their updates by a certain time instead of meeting in real time.

What is the cost of meetings? 

Not only do unproductive meetings lead to less productive and disengaged employees, but they may also be costing your organization thousands of dollars. Many working professionals recognize that meetings are taking up too much time, but they fail to recognize the financial burden. According to Aydin Mirzaee, the chief executive officer (CEO) and Co-Founder of Fellow, unproductive meetings cost businesses in the United States upwards of $375B a year. While this sum may seem astronomical, it’s not unrealistic. According to a recent Bloomberg article, unnecessary or ineffective meetings waste $25,000 annually per employee—adding up to $101 million a year for organizations with 5,000 or more employees.

Did you know that professionals who use Fellow spend an average of 16% less time in meetings? As a purpose-built tool for meetings, Fellow supports every type of meeting—from one-on-ones to project kickoff meetings and stand-ups—so you can boost productivity and cut costs! Calculate the cost of your meetings with our built-in meeting cost calculator as part of Fellow’s new Meeting Guidelines. Fellow estimates the cost of your meeting directly in Google Calendar, so you can right-size every meeting.

Are you ready to take control of your calendar? 

2023 is the year of standing your ground and spending your time how you see fit. Gone are the days of being pressured into unnecessary meetings or feeling obligated to stick around in a meeting that doesn’t serve you. When you decide to conduct your next time audit, reference this blog for tips and tricks on how to put time back into your schedule. Check out the Fellow blog for more productivity hacks in 2023!

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