The average employee spends two hours a week in ‘pointless’ meetings, potentially costing companies around the world more than US$541 billion worth of resources in 2019.

These were the findings of meetings scheduling platform Doodle in its The State of Meetings Report 2019. The company examined data from 19 million meetings and commissioned interviews with more than 6,500 working professionals across the UK, Germany, Switzerland and the US.

The research found that the average worker spends three hours a week in meetings – meaning two-thirds of all meetings can be labelled a waste of time. Collectively, 24 billion hours will be lost to such gatherings over the next year.

More German professionals (74 per cent) reported regularly losing valuable working time to poorly organised meetings than those in the UK (72 per cent) or US (68 per cent).

Of the reasons they felt meetings were pointless, 89 per cent of respondents said they were ineffective or poorly organised, followed closely by conference calls with bad reception (88 per cent).

Respondents also pointed out common behaviours that lead to misused time during meetings, such as colleagues taking phone calls or texting (55 per cent), interrupting others (50 per cent), not listening to others and arriving late or leaving early (49 per cent each), and talking about nothing for long periods of time (46 per cent). Meanwhile, 24 per cent said they were irritated by colleagues eating during meetings, 21 per cent cited people who don’t contribute to the discussion and 9 per cent were annoyed by people taking notes on laptops.

More than a third (37 per cent) of those polled believe unnecessary meetings are the biggest cost to their organisation. An overwhelming 72 per cent said setting clear objectives is key to running efficient meetings, followed by 67 per cent who want a clear agenda.

When asked about the true cost of a wasted meeting, 44 per cent of those polled said they mean they don’t have enough time to do the rest of their work. Unclear actions lead to confusion for 43 per cent, while 38 per cent said poor organisation leads to a loss of focus on projects. Irrelevant attendees slowed progress for 31 per cent and 26 per cent believe inefficient processes weaken client and supplier relationships.

However, employees clearly still see overwhelming value in face-to-face meetings, with 76 per cent of respondents saying they prefer to meet in person rather than over the phone or through video conferencing.

Gabriele Ottino, CEO of Doodle, commented: “We commissioned this report because we wanted to have a better understanding of what makes a bad meeting, and how it affects people on a daily basis. What’s positive is that within the huge financial implications lie simple issues that can easily be fixed. Things like setting a clear agenda, only inviting relevant people and proper planning can be easily implemented, and if we stick to these principals there’s a clear opportunity to make a huge savings, cut wasted time and reduce irritation to employees – benefiting everyone.”

Subscribe to the BBT Newsletter

Join the Buying Business Travel newsletter for the latest business travel news.

Thank you for signing up!