If you’ve ever felt that sitting in on meetings was derailing your productivity, turns out you were right.

Transcription company Otter.ai partnered with Dr. Steven G. Rogelberg, Professor of Organizational Science, Management at UNC Charlotte to research “how companies can save time and money when it comes to meeting strategy, culture, and tools.” Last week they released the report, The Cost of Unnecessary Meeting Attendance.

632 employees representing over 20 different industries responded to a survey that was conducted in summer 2022. 47% of respondents were women, 51% men, and 2% identified as other. Some of their findings include:

  • On average, employees have 17.7 meetings (totaling 18 hours) per week.
  • Employees report that only 11.8 meetings (totaling 11.9 hours) per week were critical to attend, while 5.3 meetings (5.7 hours) could have been skipped, as long as they were kept in the loop.
  • Employees accept 83% of meeting invitations that are sent to them. Employees report they want to decline 31%, but actually decline only 14% of meetings.
  • Considering the number of meetings that employees report they could skip (as long as they were kept in the loop), there is a potential “wasted” investments of over $25,000 per employee, per year. This number is substantially higher for managers of 4+ direct reports compared to non-managers.

$25,000 per year! Research shows that 70% of meetings keep employees from doing productive work. Harvard Business Review surveyed 76 companies that reduced the number of meetings over a 14-month period. They found that “employee productivity was 71% higher when meetings were reduced by 40%. This is largely because employees felt more empowered and autonomous. Rather than a schedule being the boss, they owned their to-do lists and held themselves accountable, which consequently increased their satisfaction by 52%.”

Encourage your team to cut back on the number of meetings per week. Move forward with ones that add value to their work. Carefully consider who needs to be in each meeting. Meetings should be brief in time and small in attendance. And always ask the all-important question, could this meeting be an email?